A view from Ramsey Naja: Believe it or not

Ramsey Naja is regional executive creative director at DDB Middle East. @geminisnake

There’s something wonderful about the concept of ‘suspension of disbelief’. Not only is it the foundation of the entire entertainment industry, but it also happens to come quite handy for everything related to information these days.

I mean hey, look at politics: here you are, sending troops, tanks and the entire kitchen sink to ravage a country normally associated with watching corn grow but, just to make sure everybody gets the ‘real’ picture, you engage Disbelief Suspension Mode (DSM) and suddenly it is nothing but a little jaunt to pick fresh tulips under the spring sun and send them to mum on Mother’s Day. This is obviously made considerably easier by people’s propensity to see conspiracy theories everywhere and latch on to whatever ‘alternative’ narrative there is out there, but I digress.

The fact is, DSM is not alien to our venerable industry. Indeed, it was activated at full throttle only recently at an industry event, as it often is. The trigger? That baffling statement that’s been with us ever since advertising became a nerd-fest of tech and innovation: “There has never been a better time for creativity.”

Right then, rose-tinted spectacles on? Check. Nose extension? Check. DSM engaged? Roger that.

Now you might think that such a statement would require an upgrade, a DSM 2.0 if you will. After all, going along with it does not require disbelief to be just suspended: it needs it to be bolted to the ceiling, strapped in space-age cables and wrapped in so many bondage-like belts that you’d want to stick a ball in its mouth and call it a gimp.

Never a better time? For creativity? What time and what creativity, pray? The time when digital stalking is a perfectly legal pursuit and your privacy as invadable as Eastern Europe? The creativity that churns out mindless, inane, beige and vapid messages that no one sees except for marketing and account execs?

Maybe it’s in the equally unwatchable torrent of posts, carrousels and ‘stories’ that is vomited into social media with hardly any thought spared for persuading the recipient except for beating their subconscious into submission. Or maybe the kind of copywriting that picks thesaurus words willy-nilly to generate slogans that make as much sense as a Kamala Harris press conference. This is the reality, the hard reality.

Turn off DSM and you’ll find that creativity – advertising, in fact – is in crisis. And not any crisis, but a full-blown crisis festival extravaganza, with shows and spectacles choreographed to the tune of blaring sirens and screaming children. The kind of crisis that threatens jobs and livelihoods, but more critically the actual meaning and purpose of what we do. Because the only creativity that these times are fostering is the one that hides under the cloak of ‘creative reputation’, and whose commercial value is, well, just as believable.