When I attend an industry event, I look around the room, taking in all the faces. Then, I take a deep breath, and start building a mental list. Not of who is in the room – but who is not in the room.
For example, if the event that I attend is a media conference, I’ll quickly notice that, say, GroupM is not present.
If it’s a AAAI event, I might notice that no one, day, from JWT or Leo Burnett is present.
And so on.
Absence is a great storyteller. Absence reveals more to me than presence does.
Negative spaces tell great stories.
Like the arrow hidden in the negative space of the FedEx logo, negatives point me to interesting directions.
For example, if you look around you in the aircraft on domestic red-eye flights, you would notice a marked absence of babies and young mothers. That’s good to know.
When you step into Totos, you would see the absence of the young drinker. That’s good to notice, as well.
When the camera pans the celebrities at an IPL final and you notice that many celebrities who have been present in previous years are absent, it’s very, very useful to know.
And when you see visicooolers full of orange and lemon flavoured drinks and you struggle to see the colas, there are lessons to be learnt.
If you see ads claiming that a motorcycle brand is doing well and you do not see that brand on the roads that you travel on, it makes you stop and think.
When a category that was once a heavier user of print advertising disappears from the pages of the newspapers that you read, it’s terrific food for thought.
I’m an eternal optimist, but I keep looking for negatives.
Negatives are terrific.