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NotesFromCannes: Ugly is Trending | Titus Upputuru, Creative Head, Taproot Dentsu

20 Jun 2019

Hello Everyone!!!

Titus Upputuru, Creative Head, Taproot Dentsu writes from Cannes about the talk ‘Ugly Sells’ by Tim Leake and corroborates the psyche behind the trend. Scroll down to read the full article or click on the link below.

NotesFromCannes: Ugly is Trending

Some years back I saw a billboard for a Salon in the US that said, “Look so good people think you are shallow." 

Someone else asked in a magazine once, “What is this whole debate about beauty being skin deep; do you expect a gorgeous pancreas?” 

Appearance has been in fashion for as long as we can remember. People spent lot of time and energy behind how an image or a video looked. Cinema had a lot to do with it. As also art, design and film schools.


I grew up in times when how a print ad looked was very important. There were art director annuals that celebrated and taught graphic design, typography, amongst other things. As a copy writer I was really concerned who my art director was because he or she could potentially ruin a great headline by not using the right font, put it in right size and not placing in a good layout.

Conversations about Serif and Sans Serif ruled the creative departments. In print, kerning was saluted and leading was respected. Helvetica was worshipped.

There were also these thick black books which had great looking photography that many art directors and creative directors marked using those strips of yellow Post Its in order to get the photographs scanned and used in layouts.

You always wanted to work with the best to get the best output, be it photography, models, lighting, styling or set design.

In video too, how an ad looked was very important. We were mindful who was behind the camera. And also of who was doing the set design and the art direction. Who the stylist was and how the actors looked. In ad film making, at least one day is kept aside for DI or grading.

In short, craft was and is worshipped and celebrated in our worlds of communication, brand and media.

Everything is supposed to look immaculate. And if you ask anyone I’ve ever worked with, they will tell you how much I get into the details.

But today, all of this seems to be challenged by the content that we are seeing around. People don’t seem to care too much about the quality of a photo or a structure of a font. It seems to be the age of the instant creation with little time spent on execution. The content that engages us – be it GIFs, Memes or YouTube video, everything seems to be irreverent in its execution.

This formed the heart of the talk ‘Ugly Sells’ that Tim Leake, SVP, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at RPA spoke about.

He spoke about how there is this strange trend of people actively preferring to engage with "ugly" things. Kids love games like Minecraft and Roblox — that deliberately look crappy.

People love memes and videos that feel raw, real, and under-designed. When it comes to online content, production value has little correlation to engagement.

At the same time, marketers today don’t always have the budget for well-crafted production values. In a world where speed and prolificity are increasingly more important, Tim’s talk provoked a debate if beauty was really all that necessary.

The reason for this shift is because consumers are seeking authenticity, now more than ever before. Gucci’s recent ad campaign is a great testimony to this. The choice of the model, the typography, the size of the hashtag everything seems to be irreverent.

The consumers want to engage with what is more real than what is put on or made up. While there are increasing number of filters being introduced in social media, the most trending isstill #nofilter.

So are we saying that craft is no longer relevant? I am not quite sure. I think our big brand assets may still need to have a certain aesthetic but perhaps we are on the cusp of a movement in history where, more than ever before, creation is going to be about the idea and idea alone. And not how it looked or sounded.

(The article is written by Titus Upputuru, Creative Head, Taproot Dentsu, Gurgaon)