Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Interlocking Directorates. Fiduciary Duties. Awe.

I read all the time. Frankly, as far as the advertising business goes, it's my competitive edge, like writing all the time is my competitive edge, and you can't really do one without the other.

At least I can't.

That said, if I read 50 books a year (a paltry number) 48 are giant tomes of "long history," and merely two are fiction. It's not that I don't like fiction--it's that it's harder for me to "get" without having someone to talk to about it, so somehow, I enjoy it less.

Often the fiction I do read is of the spy variety. I've allowed Graham Greene, Eric Ambler and John Le Carre a place in my life. 

When Le Carre's novel "Silverview" came out to much fanfare, I ordered it right away. I hurried through whatever else I was reading and moved it ahead to my on deck circle. My old boss and friend was similarly excited and we raced to see who would get to it first. 

Le Carre said of Smiley, his greatest creation, that "he had the gift of quiet." That phrase alone elevates Le Carre to the Pantheon. 

My old boss and friend was from Indiana, and I'm from Yonkers, New York, so my brass-knuckles, naturally, carried the day and bloodied his midwestern proboscis. I got to Silverview first. And within seconds of starting the book, I was agape and I sent my Hoosier competitor a note. 

Can you believe this writing, I asked. I've read it four times because it is just so good and so fluid and so dense. I remember reading this, closing my e-reader and reading it over and again. Yes, a moment of emotional wow, like seeing Van Gogh's painting, Dr. Gachet, in the flesh. You can't take your eyes away.

I bring all this up because the fake Cannes, the ad industry's one, is about to start. Forget, for a second, that the festival is owned by a British company called Ascential, which is also a major investor in many of the world's ad agency holding companies. Forget about the impropriety of that. Forget about that being like a restaurant paying its own reviewers. Or movie studios owning movie theaters.

No conflict of interest to see here.

Interlocking directorates. (An illustration.)

Interlocking directorates. (MBA stuff.)

Look past, also if you can, the subject-object split between the advertisements you see in the wild on that quaint technology we used to call TV, and the advertisements heralded at Cannes and promoted by advertising's corporate landlords. Forget that there's virtually no overlap between ads you see in the wild and ads that win awards. That's old school thinking. Reality-based thinking. That's harken-back-to-the-80s-thinking that ads that win awards should actually have an effect on real people, be paid for by real clients and run in real media. Stop that.

But really, I'm talking about something different.

I'm talking about awe.

Work that stops us. Actually stops us because we actually see it.

Work that rattles our rafters and upsets our complacency about what work looks like. Work that is odd. Different. Put-the-book-down work. Work that doesn't lead people to chatter about "craft" and lensing and cinematography. Work that takes your breath away.

Those are the sine qua non qualities of award-winning.


I'd like to see things on the air that stop me in my tracks. That render me breathless. Then jealous. Then wow. Work that makes me want things. Rethink things. Work that makes me work harder.

Put another way, I'd like to see things that don't need a video explaining the video I just saw.

I'd like to see real work.

That makes me gasp.

Not spreadsheets that make me sick.

No comments: