Yesterday a writer/creative director's book came across my desktop. The work of a person who's worked at a lot of the small creative places. Places with weird names. Places named after fruits or amphibians or adjectives or numerals.
I was told that certain senior people in the agency liked this guy. Would I like to meet him? I started clicking through the work.
Yes, I am old-fashioned. But when I look at a book, I look first at print. It is the most "naked" of media. Your idea needs to be synthesized to a simple core. It needs to be clear, telegraphic. Further, perhaps more than any other media, print is somewhat solo. You don't have a team of collaborators--directors, music guys, special effects and layers of creative input. It's usually just you and your partner when it comes to print.
This particular creative person had about ten print ads in his book. And about twenty words of copy. Maybe thirty.
I'm a fairly smart guy, but an ad that pictures, say, a kitchen table with a book on it and a small line of text has no stopping power. Yes, I'm sure your visual solution is brilliant, scandalous even, but I don't have the time to decipher such things. I read magazines and newspapers for the articles that interest me and the writers I admire. Not to unravel the fearsomely baroque intricacies of your visual puzzles.
Then it occurred to me. The audience for every ad in this portfolio wasn't people who buy products and services. The audience was the people who buy creative people. The ads
weren't meant to sell anything but the person who created them.
When I was in high school I played on the varsity baseball team. There was a guy on the team a grade ahead of me called Joe Tartaglia. Tartaglia had a picture book batting stance and swing. If Mickey Mantle dropped by our playing field and saw Tartaglia swing, he'd have taken notes.
The thing was, Tartaglia never adjusted his swing to the pitch. He would swing at the same level no matter where the pitch was. I think Tartaglia went 0 for April, 1 for May and 0 for June. In other words, beautiful swing and all, he stunk.
Now the creator of the portfolio I was writing about won his passel of awards. (He had a beautiful swing.) But he never sold anything. (He never hit the ball.)
It's a sham. And a shame that we as an industry denigrate ourselves by lauding such pretenders.