The new vision of the Inner Child

I first noticed it when, in deepest blue-worsted Toronto, I began wearing a bright orange Mickey Mouse silk tie.It struck me again the day I bought a bicycle.By the time I found myself sitting, along with every other baby boomer, through...

I first noticed it when, in deepest blue-worsted Toronto, I began wearing a bright orange Mickey Mouse silk tie.

It struck me again the day I bought a bicycle.

By the time I found myself sitting, along with every other baby boomer, through the early showing of the animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, the penny finally dropped.

My generation, the wonderful folks who brought you Howdy Doody, the Maharishi and Gordon Gekko, was going through mid-life. And with that generation, the advertising community it not only populates, but runs.

All acknowledge The Eighties – that sleek decade of bottomless lucre and cruel furniture – is dead. It has few mourners.

We successfully created a 100% fat-free adult world, fast and unforgiving, in which greed was good and the very best took no prisoners.

It was a sterile, humming hell, in which a deal not quite done, an objective not quite reached, or worse, some faceless number-cruncher in a distant glass tower could exile one at any moment into the Siberia of early termination.

The situation was made worse by the widespread restructuring of the economy and a recession that has refused to quit. To say nothing of the depleted ozone layer.

The result has been an epidemic of fear and loathing. And it has infected every corner of the advertising business.

But something hopeful is happening.

I am referring, of course, to my Mickey Mouse tie. Or, more accurately, what it represents.

I think it is telling us we want to escape the tyranny of this censorious adult world. Underneath, we long to look with the eyes of the child.

You can see it all around us in the popularity of the Inner Child movement in psychology.

Therapists are telling us that if we hope to be fully creative people, we must recover our inner child. The Playful Creator. The wide-eyed innocent who sees all things are possible. Who fantasizes, experiments and invents.

Those children are our energy source.

The Eighties nearly killed them. The Nineties will bring them back.

The advertising world, having exhausted all the adults, needs to have children. We have to play our way to new answers. Stop looking over the precipice and start picnicking there.

Which brings me to the West. Not that it is a precipice – more a seawall.

This is what the West offers. The raw energy, imagination and exuberance of youth.

You can see it all around you in its epicentre: Vancouver. A well-scrubbed city of shiny new buildings. A city so young, its entire history has been photographed.

Its youthful elan is palpable. Everyone blades, boards or bikes. And old people giggle and hold hands. Everyone seems somehow younger.

This is the environment that will, I believe, spawn a reborn spirit of great advertising.

Innovative, lively, spontaneous, averse to research, rules and intolerant rationality, Vancouver is the forgotten frontier of childhood.

Look at the freshness of the work on these pages. It is the product of play. The adults have not killed it yet.

Like Minneapolis and Seattle before it, Vancouver offers advertisers a fresh perspective and a boundless maverick optimism.

I think it has something to do with the city’s novitiate status in the game. Only two or three years ago did Vancouver get its first Creative Award Show – the Lotus Awards.

I might add that, in true Vancouver style, a first-rate annual was produced, something the mature Toronto shows still lack.

That production capability is a counterpoint to Vancouver’s playful attitude. Perhaps due to a proximity to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and long experience as a mecca for feature films, its production standards, particularly in broadcast, are second to none.

This combination of creative innocence and mature execution is a potentially powerful brew. In the coming years, I believe more of the industry’s brightest and best will come here to imbibe it.

Now, with all this talk about recovering the inner child, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.

I am not recommending we all become children again. It is simply not possible.

We are adults. But we need to let the child out now and then. We need the ideas and energy.

We also need to bring these to bear on some very adult problems. The persistent migraines of major-league advertisers.

I believe those on the leading edge of the client community may be festooning themselves in Mickey Mouse ties. And casting a wistful eye westward.

We are ready for you.

One final observation. I remember once seeing a marvellous film called Reuben Reuben.

In it, the central character, a dissipated, drunken Scottish poet suffering from an overdose of cynicism and writer’s block, looks at college students dancing to hard rock in the moonlight.

With bitter nostalgia, he remarks, ‘I hate their music. I hate their laughter. I hate their dancing. In short, I hate their youth.’

Youth has long sparked resentment in adults. Perhaps this is why there is this curious resentment about Vancouver.

They cannot really be working out there, can they? I mean, surely, they are just playing.

Exactly.

Peter Lanyon is creative director of Vancouver-based Lanyon Phillips Brink Advertising.