On a damp Friday afternoon I entered the iconic London headquarters of Saatchi and Saatchi, one of the world’s most influential advertising firms, to meet its worldwide CEO, Robert Senior. In case you are not aware, this is the person whose ad showing a gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins led to the largest revenue growth for Cadbury’s in a decade.

The ad industry appears to be going through some uncomfortable change as a result of tech disruption – programmatic ad buying is replacing the job of deciding which advert goes on which site and few have worked out how to advertise on mobile yet.

To top that, the world’s largest advertisers have put their contracts up for review. Another nail in the coffin is the rise of ad blockers - according to PageFair, an adblocker monitoring company, the total global monthly user base will top 250 million this year.

While some voices are saying that the era of the Mad Men is over, the Saatchi and Saatchi boss is upbeat: “advertising is one of the oldest professions. The business of advocacy in the marketplace has been around since the market place was created.”

What about technology and social media?

Surely worries about disruption aren’t coming from nowhere? Mr Senior sees technology as a tool for advertisers to use to better understand, reach and interact with consumers – he states firmly that technology cannot replace human creativity.

On the topic of social media, he says that it has opened the ad campaign to the public. While previously advertisers had to do much of their work separated from the very people they are trying to convince by doing research and focus groups behind closed doors, crafting communications strategies and then releasing the campaign, today’s campaigns are much more interactive and do not have the same firm beginning and end.

For example, the simple fact that the Cadbury’s gorilla ad is still being watched on YouTube means the campaign lives on.

However, Mr Senior points out that while the internet has enabled lots of people to create content – this does not necessarily mean that much of it is any good. While anyone with an internet connection can now have a voice, “it’s like everyone having a pen.

Just because more and more people have pens these days, does not mean we have lots of great novels.” To create excellent content the author must focus on “strategic reductionism” – a root cause analysis of the problem you are trying to solve. This is equally true of advertising as it is of informing or entertaining.

Staying creative

Since advertising is the commercialization of creativity, having a mind full of ideas is imperative to business success. However, in an age in which it is fashionable to be busy and push notifications feed our egos with likes and retweets, how do we stay creative? The key is not to get trapped in the hamster wheel: “we train battalions of busy fools”, says Mr Senior, asserting that overstimulated people do not make good decisions.

“Do things that energise you, clean the brain out, laugh!”

Coming from a man whose work has both entertained and enticed us to spend our hard earned cash, I will be taking his advice, but not before I have some chocolate.

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