Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Not.

One of the pains of living in an advertising era dominated by the “Awards-Industrial-Complex” is that most people can no longer tell for themselves what “good” is. 

Work (and people) are only regarded as good if they win awards. In a weird perversion of Protagoras’ dictum that “man is the measure of all things,” we have today traduced that statement. We seem to believe “awards are the measure of all things.”

They're not. And there's a deep danger in being award-addicted.

It seems to me we have stopped cultivating our own critical faculties. We have stopped thinking about the effects of work on customers. We have stopped thinking about whether or not it helps the clients who pay for it.

Instead, we have a binary test. Did it or did it not win something?

Something that wins something is good, even if it sucks--if it's self-conscious and esoteric. Something that doesn’t win is bad, even if it has measurable effect in the market.

Further, ads created by noted award-winners are assumed to be noteworthy because “they’re from the award-winning creator of….”

Last week, I saw three commercials on Agency Spy from two vaunted agencies who have long-traditions of doing award-winning work.

One commercial was for Lucky Charms. Another for Reese’s Pieces Cereal (something like that.) And a third was for some sort of honey-glazed sweet and hot Kentucky Fried Chicken.

They were all so horrifically bad I called my work neighbor over to get his opinion. Could such and such a noted agency really do work that bad? And think it's good enough to publicize on Agency Spy?

Why would the agencies involved send this work to Agency Spy? Did they think it was noteworthy? Did they think it was good?

One of the best things you can do in your career (and your life, for that matter) is to develop your own personal sense of good and bad. In other words, what do you like, and why do you like it. You’ll find this comes in handy when you’re creating work, reviewing work, looking at art, reading a book, meeting a partner--work or life--and so on.

I am often chastised by my daughters for being “judgey.” For being tough and critical and for having high-standards that are, yes, inflexible.

As an industry, I’m afraid we have forgotten how to be critical. We have turned our critical faculties over to judges who too often reward ads that never ran and that are too obscure for any audience outside of award judges themselves.

We have to get back to doing good work. 

And understanding once again what good work is.


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