Besides the crazy ubiquitous nature of sachet water, fondly called “pure water” in Nigeria, truth is, there is nothing pure about the so-called pure water. In fact, the very concept of “pure water” as used today, is so mercilessly bastardized that even a pint of water sourced from the gutters, and sealed inside a sachet can very well pass for pure water. This analogy aptly describes the situation with “expertise,” a concept that is now blatantly bastardized just like pure water.
Sometimes in 2014, a provocative article titled “The Death of Expertise,” written by Thomas (Tom) Nichols, a Sovietologist and professor at the U.S. Naval War College, appeared online. In the highly insightful piece, Tom bemoaned the idea that in today’s world, the line between “experts” and “laymen” has been blurred if not completely erased. In a way, everyone now claims to be an expert, no thanks to social media, the platform that now strips to bare, the Theory of Everything.
The above subject is so contentious and onion-layered that, the said article has now morphed into a full-fledged nonfictional book, “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and why it matters,” by same Thomas Nichols, and published February 1st, 2017.
Though it seems we are above the unending fray as contained in the book, truth is, the argument very well speaks to certain modus operandi prevalent within our creative industry.
Of course, you know credit should firstly go to Nollywood for always doing a fine job of slaying the concept of expertise. Typically in Nollywood, a screenwriter will equally be the producer, floor manger, director, makeup artist, cameraman, cast, editor, etc. How else can one kill the concept of expertise? This craze of One Man-Does-It-All also plays out in the music industry every now and then.
Perhaps the good side to this mumbo-jumbo is that, when it comes to the marketing of these artistic works, everyone can very well put on the expert toga. With social media, you can smartly sell your crafts like a true marketing pro. No more free food for middlemen.
And what about our advertising community?
Truth is: some agencies are now—nearly—playing the role of a general contractor, subtly claiming expertise in almost anything just to keep the cash register ringing. Even some traditionally rooted agencies now smugly put on the “digital agency” nametag. Not bad. But what do these agencies really do in terms of digital? Online banners and silly Facebook posts!
In fact, the marketing communication industry now is almost mish-mashed, such that, PR companies are now creating spots (ads), ad agencies are now running community management programs, digital agencies are now managing large-scale (online and offline) marketing campaigns. We all are experts in everything, right? Man must wak! The usual narrative.
What about the clients?
They are now amenable to hearing ideas from absolutely anyone, layman or otherwise. We all see how people post all manner of ideas, or expertly run all sorts of blog online. Today, social media not only flood us with multifarious information that span different professions, it’s also the universal pot of ideas. To this end, most laymen now roughly understand the nuts and bolts of creativity; hence to some clients, anyone can almost expertly do what a typical creative agency can do.
And to the supposed professionals within the advertising industry, the simple act of practicing without duly registering with the appropriate regulatory bodies essentially contributes to the death of expertise.
In conclusion, the death of expertise might have been largely expedited by today’s connected generation, an era rife with the Dunning Kruger effect— a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority; the point remains that, give or take, our many actions and inactions either enhance, or debase the concept of expertise into a commoner, just like pure water.