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Archive for November, 2011

Stardate November 15th 2554

 

THE ART OF ADVERTISING ISN’T ABOUT COMING UP WITH IDEAS

Most creatives have spent hours, days, months even, looking through D&AD, One Show and American Art Directors annuals.

Seeing a brilliant idea can be incredibly inspiring.

But way back at GGT there was one book we used to pore over more than any other: The Art Of Advertising by George Lois.

It’s a big hardback mutha, bigger than an LP cover (those things that pre-dated CDs, you know, those things that pre-dated downloads) and about 2 inches thick. I just managed to get a copy from an Amazon reseller – it’s been out of print for years – but they’re not cheap at around 160 USD. Absolutely worth every cent though, because Lois did some truly groundbreaking stuff that any current creative genius would be proud of.

Before I’m accused of backward looking, check out the example here. The ad itself is no great shakes, but fuck, what a brilliant IDEA the entire concept is – read the description – every bit as good, and relevant as anything, anywhere out there now. The media is irrelevant; it could quite easily be promoted on social network sites.

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Could your agency sell this idea?

I can envisage many excuses why it shouldn’t be done. But the only thing that truly matters is the result, surely?
It got me thinking, because I was chatting with an art director friend the other day and he was saying how he couldn’t be bothered to try anymore because, well, the big agency he works at couldn’t sell anything decent anyway, they just do what the clients tell them.

The culture of ‘collaboration’ has allowed everyone to have an ‘input’, so junior suits and planners would be changing the ideas. By the time it reached the client it was barely recognizable as the idea he started with. And then various ranks of clients have input. This is why, he was saying, so many creatives (in Asia especially) resort to scam.

The truth is, a lot of Lois’ genius was being able to sell some of his ideas. Even almost 50 years later (yes, 50 years, for those who think advertising has progressed) some would still be seen as too challenging for a lot of today’s networks.

And there’s that overused sound byte “there’s no such thing as a bad client”. Er…of course there is. Just as there are bad bank managers, bad taxi drivers, bad manufacturers, bad politicians and yes, even bad creatives. This is a myth perpetuated by some agency managers to whip creatives and cover up the fact that THEIR AGENCY IS INCAPABLE OF GETTING GREAT WORK MADE.

It’s about honesty.

Clients on agency rosters serve different purposes.

Some are there because they do great work but pay little money (sometimes none).

Some are there because they do poor work but pay LOTS of money (and therefore keep the agency doors open)

And best of all, some are there because they do great work and pay lots of money.

I remember Dave Trott once complaining to Mike Greenlees that a particular (high paying) client wouldn’t buy any good work, and in the words of Dave, was “also a cunt”. Mike replied “yes Dave, but he’s OUR cunt.” Dave understood and the client kept his place on the roster and GGT produced genius work for other clients. GGT were honest enough to realize that particular client was vitally important to the agency, but not for great work, so they didn’t kid themselves or anyone else.

Most creatives come up with good ideas at one time or another, maybe not as good as Lois, but certainly better than the general dire output the public gets subjected to.

Sadly, very few agencies are actually run by creative people anymore (it’s no coincidence that the ones that are, are doing the best work btw). So the first scapegoat when there’s a problem is the creative guy or gal.

It’s worth remembering one thing that hasn’t changed about our business – for all the meetings and powerpoints, the only thing that really matters is the end product, what people actually get to see.

And given that we’re unlikely to change the culture of collaboration, it’s only right that the business partners take an equal stake in the successes and failures.

Because no matter how great an idea is, it isn’t a great idea until it actually runs.

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