"As long as we keep judging our own work
from the perspective of the consumer, there’s
a possibility we may even reward them for spending time with our message."

photo by Bas de Graaf


Joris van Elk on advertising



Since 1993 Joris van Elk has been building a career in advertising. He has been involved in the early start-up of WebAds and made the first-ever beer-branded computer game.


After exploring the first steps in digital advertising, he switched to direct marketing, broadening his portfolio and knowledge. After having worked at WCJ Joris choose to persue his carreer in tradional advertising ending up at the big international network agencies, where he worked for over two decades serving many household names and brands.


As he ended up being the creative director at the ADCN for 5 years in a row, reshaping the club and its identity, he obtained unique insight into the creative industry.

You've been in the business for over 25 years. Is advertising still fulfilling?


In my opinion everybody who is doing any job for such a long period is either desperate or obsessed. In my case I guess it’s pure creative obsession. I still wake up every morning with outrageous ideas that floated through my head while I was asleep. So there must be some undefined force that drives me to do this. Most of these ideas will never ever see the light of day, and hardly any have survived the dawn, but as long as my brain keeps making these weird connections, I guess I won’t stop creating.



But advertising over the past decade has changed more and more into a technical profession reigned by media and digital possibilities. Is there still enough creativity within these limited boundaries?


It is true that our profession has somehow lost itself within the diversity of all the media that have become available to us now a day. But still, even the most techy app will not be noticed without a good idea behind it. And that idea will always be based on creativity. It’s very hard for those who don’t have that creative DNA, but every good communication starts with long hours of thinking until you suddenly get that little light bulb that makes everything clear and makes your tummy rumble. And afterwards you can’t remember how you ever got there.

That’s what separates good from average, and that’s what makes advertising stand out from any other form of communication.



Do you understand why most people hate advertising?


Advertising is an uninvited guest, spoiling quality time. Nobody thinks, ‘Let’s wait for the next commercial break.’ We the creatives are extremely enthusiastic about everything that is happening in advertising, but that doesn’t justify the rubbish most people have to stand when it comes to advertising at this moment. And it’s getting too much. There’s no screen that’s safe anymore, and that makes everything we create very fragile. As long as we keep judging our own work from the perspective of the consumer, there’s a possibility we may even reward them for spending time with our message. That can be laughter, a tear, or a small moment of joy, anything except boredom and stupidity.



What do you think the future of advertising will bring?


I think that there will be some sort of revival of craft. It’s a bit similar to the beer market.

When you over-commercialize everything, small rebellions start up, taking the form of brewing independent handmade beers, with handmade packaging and pure natural ingredients, for instance. Consumers dig that kind of stuff and correct the over-commercialized megabrands. In the end it all depends on the opinion of the consumer, and that opinion is our beacon. The supertech stuff and the control of data will evolve, but in the end they have to emerge with old-fashioned craft and creativity. So… very exciting times lay ahead of us.



Will advertising eventually save the world?


Unfortunately, it won’t. Communication will hopefully, but not this kind of communication, I’m afraid.



E: mail@jorisvanelk.com  M: +31 (0)6 21 54 82 46

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