What Wasn't Always Now Is.

A few years back I met with a senior ad-person in Minneapolis. He asked me what kind of work I wanted to make.

I told him (and this is still my driving motivation) that there was this ad for MINI, the MINI driver's contract, that I had torn out of a magazine and put in on my wall. It was cool. Mostly because I was 14 and these were some tips on driving not like my parents. I still take a piece of advice from it:

"When you reach the apex of a curve: accelerate."

That kind of work, the work that people put on their walls (or share, or talk about), is what I want to make. He told me that's all fine and good, but not every brand or category we work on is going to be as cool as MINI.

I argued back that Old Spice wasn't really cool until W+K made it cool. That I thought every brand, every brief provided the opportunity to change the way people think about a product. And we, as creative people, should be grateful for that.

He still disagreed with me. Thus I left his agency, which I really liked, feeling dejected and confused. In retrospect it is just two different ways to look at the industry, then it was soul shattering.

As I said above, I still believe that it just takes a little more caring and divergent thinking to make a huge impact. What reminded me of this is the Dollar Shave Club video that has been making rounds. If budget razors can be cool then anything can be cool.

Even if no one cared about budget razors a week ago, they do now.


I hate what reading Academic writing does to my own writing.
It's overly loquacious and often up its own ass.
And some of that seems to seep over here.
Again, I hate that.
Language should be deliberate.
You shouldn't have to deconstruct a message.
If you do, I haven't done my job correctly.
That's a problem because I love my job.
I love calling a spade a spade.
Or calling crap...well, crap.
This is in the attempt to be stupidly clear.
Without clarity these are just the ramblings of a raving lunatic.
I also think this academic viewpoint leads to a lot of problems we have in the industry today.
Everybody is talking with words that don't really mean anything.
Buzzwords, jargon, general shite.
This kind of speech doesn't make goals clear.
It doesn't help with communication.
It helps build up a barrier between us (gods of advertising) and them (plebeian consumers).
It's a barrier that doesn't really need to exist, but it makes us feel better.
My opinion (however humble that may be) is that this stuff doesn't need to be that difficult.
We are making it hard on ourselves.
The creep of academia is certainly not something advertising needs.
It needs inquisitive people.
It needs agile people.
It needs people who love simplicity*.

What it doesn't need is more formality and more scholars.
Leave that to the academic journals (which I hopefully won't be reading for a very long while).

*Not just in the helvetica/clean design sense.
(With apologies to Dave Trott for using his writing style. It's loads better than most others, IMHO.)

The Lowest Common Denominator Isn't The Issue. The Issue is Us.

ALERT: Super Bowl reflection post below.

People complain that the majority of Super Bowl commercials are sub-par every year. In turn this gets blamed on the American Public or, as many others in the field like to call it, the lowest common denominator.

The problem is appealing to what we think is the lowest common denominator. Or thinking our ads have to be worse to appeal to all people*. They don't. But it does take a slightly different approach to make an ad that delights and sells when 100 million people are watching.

And it's not like there haven't been successful Super Bowl spots in the past. It wasn't long ago that Bud ruled the game with their frogs and wassup. It was just two years ago that Old Spice reigned supreme with The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (which actually ran before the game). Even VW's Little Vader was universally loved and slightly humorous (though the selling point was a little weak).

Contrast that with the "sophisticated" approach Bud Light Platinum took. Those spots were universally panned in polls and post-game commentary. They offered nothing to the audience and blended in with the blandervitisng we see every day. It was as though the creatives had never drank a beer in their lives (let alone a Platinum).

So while it's possible to make something that doesn't suck you have to understand where you're advertising. the point is to entertain groups of half-interested individuals. These people are cheering for a good ad. This is the one time a year they might actually care. It's not good to go in with the attitude that appealing to people sucks. That's something that should be celebrated.

It's easy to blame people when work doesn't go over well. They didn't get it, they just weren't smart enough, what does the public know? The issue is the public is our audience: including the lowest common denominator. An ad that doesn't work for them isn't really worth anything.

And if that doesn't make sense to marketers then the Lowest Common Denominator might be us.

*This is one point I disagree with George Tannenbaum on. For a balanced perspective check out his take on Super Bowl ads.

"People Don't Buy What You Do. They Buy Why You Do It."

This is a great old TED Talk. I may have posted this before but it's definitely worth watching again. The title and the two quotes below are few of my favorites (thought there's loads of good avice in the entire thing). Take a break today and watch this.

The goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have. The goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, it's to hire people who believe what you believe.

The goal is not to just hire people who need a job.If you hire people just because they can do a job they'll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they work for you with blood, sweat, and tears.

Awards, feh.

Ours is an industry consumed with awards. We have show after show after show devoted to them. But there has to be something more than that. This is something I wrestle with as I work on producing something for the One Show student awards. Which makes me a bit of a hypocrite.

Pretty much like everyone else.

Although awards can be out path to fame and fortune that's not what drives me to do what I do. An award is a recognition by your peers that you have done something great creatively. But those are peers, that is mere congratulations on a job well done.

For me it's about having an impact on culture. A lofty goal, yes. But a goal that matters so much more than shelves full of metal. It's a recognition that your work is soemthing that makes a real difference. I want to have something I write, or produce get noticed. Noticed on a scale that no one can ignore it.

Sitting in a bar, or a cafe, or on a train and hearing your work mentioned as "that funny ad" or that "awesome ad" has to be the greatest accomplishment anyone can wish for. Because you've done it. You've touched people in a way that millions of messages didn't.

When you make pleasing the people your goal—not your peers, not your agency, not your client—the thinking changes fundamentally. The work becomes something that is going to resonate with people, make them buy product.

And that's the real reason we spend all day slaving to find The Idea.

So is the end goal the award? Or can it be something so much more? And who knows. Maybe when you start pleasing people the awards will start rolling in. Wouldn't that be nice?