Both advertising and education, including eLearning, have been around for quite some time now. Both have an enormous influence on society and what we, as individuals, think and believe. Imagine how exciting the sum of these two industries could be!
This combination will no doubt provide us with endless possibilities and it would take a considerable amount of time to delve into all the pros and cons of such a venture. For the purposes of this article, we will be focussing on more of the pros than the cons. Both industries seek to inform and equip those using the tools at their disposal and, as someone with relevant experience, I think that harnessing the overlap between the two could shift the way we work within them.
Let’s begin with advertising
What I love:
- The relentless pursuit of novel and creative concepts
- The inherent collaborative culture across specialised departments
- The freedom to not take things too seriously and licence to be provocative
What I don’t love:
- The fact that creative ideas are often used to push superfluous and expendable products and services
- The often baseless claims to legitimacy without real best-practice and expertise (e.g. this piece about Cannes Lions winners)
- Many agencies lack innovation in the creative process
Despite some of these negative aspects, advertising can be a lot of fun. Most of the time, your brief will arrive on the back of a brown envelope with nothing more than a deadline and a few guiding words. Then it’s time to brainstorm, write, draw, argue and pitch until there is a final ‘big idea’. The ‘big idea’ should be the message that will get the audience to care about your product or service. Whether it’s just based on political jokes or the new definition of success, the idea is to get people to buy in, which can be powerful.
Now for online learning:
What I love:
- Having an impact and getting the chance to equip people to be their best selves
- The wealth of theory and best-practice that guides really good work
- The way it changes the internal business environment and ruffles feathers, making way for something better
What I don’t love:
E-learning companies tend to play their cards close to their chest which can lead to a lack of industry collaboration and appreciation
- Creating online programmes can be complex and it takes a lot of time and effort
- Although learning is a serious endeavour, it doesn’t need to be joyless and online learning does not always centre creativity and delight
So what if we combined them?
It would be like a child prodigy that inherited all the exciting creative ability from advertising and the impact-focused, analytical know-how from e-learning. That’s some child!
I would love to see creative, multi-disciplinary teams — made up of your creative directors, videographers, copywriters, art directors, illustrators, and the likes — brainstorming ways to solve complex, real-world problems. And instead of shoe-horning learning needs into the same old learning solutions, I wish there’d be blue-sky thinking in which the only guiding force is the learner’s best interest (I’m talking to you instructional designers). Every business has its own method for creating solutions and I don’t intend to lump everyone into the same basket, but I do think some self-reflection is in order. What processes, practices or people need to be reimagined? What are other industries doing right that you could incorporate into your business? The answer to these questions could fuel your competitive advantage.
So what’s holding us back? In both cases, I think it’s an unhealthy attachment to tradition and ways of the ‘the good old days’. It’s safer to hold on to the past than to have to engage with the future and the unknown. In a lot of ways it seems that there is still a reverence in the advertising world for the ‘Mad Men’ era of advertising. It was certainly a time when new ways of thinking were explored and the creative mavericks of the day were heralded for their brilliance. But time has passed and a new age of innovation within the industry is needed. In the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence we can’t still cling onto the old ways and scribbled briefs on the back of envelopes .
The same is true for eLearning. It is a growing industry and educating clients on what it is can be challenging enough. But what’s next for the industry? We’ve been using the ADDIE model for decades and the SAM model is about as dubious as its cousin, AGILE. Making learning programmes is difficult, but maybe it’s time for some mad men and women to shake things up?
The point is that both industries, or at least companies within them, should be liberally stealing, borrowing, and copying as much from other industries as they can! Both are due for disruption, and I for one will be first in line to learn from the change that comes in its wake.