Why Creatives Are Always Confused

The  Ad Contrarian blog post below provides the creative perspective on just how subjective advertising is.   I’ve always said that there are a thousand ways to do an ad and they are all correct.  Who decides which concept is right?   If an ad is on strategy and the client doesn’t like it, is it wrong?  

Another great quote from me is that “advertising exists at the whim of business.”  It simply means that there are few, if any, board members of Fortune 500 companies asking about the advertising.  The advertising often occurs in support of their business issues and they care a lot less about the brand than they do about sales.  Yes, they talk about the brand but they really want to sell shit.  They often don’t care about the correlation.  Budgets may get created by marketing and ad people but they are approved by financial people.  Trust me, they don’t give a rip about “great work”  and even less about making art.

It’s tough because the ad biz is at risk.  As Keith Reinhard once said:  “We used to be in the board room, now we are in the lobby waiting to see the ad manager.”  Ad managers have little authority and less courage.  They pass concepts around to lots of people further removed from the original assignment.  The suits and the baseball hats come to solutions and ideas from very different places.  That place in the middle is fraught with dissonance. 

It’s no wonder creatives are confused.  Yet, in a very subjective arena they actually do very well.  As you read the list below remember that it is from the creative perspective.  As an account guy who totally respects their ability to create magic from a blank piece of paper I empathize.  Yet, from a business perspective I was often frustrated as I listened to creative folks complain that there was never enough time or money to have a great idea.  Project management and traffic departments were created with the sole purpose of managing the creative process and “freeing” creatives from the pesky burden of being on time, on strategy and within budget.  Yep, a confusing business.  

Tell me what you think about this age-old issue and where it is today. 

Here’s the post from the Ad Contrarian:

Why Creatives Are Always Confused

As you stroll the halls of an ad agency you often encounter people wearing baseball caps, wandering aimlessly and muttering to themselves.

We call these people “creatives.”  They are the ones who make the ads.

They are always confused. Here’s why.

They are pressured by their leaders to do “great” work. But when they do, they usually get reprimanded for not being “on strategy.”

They are encouraged to win awards. But when they do, they are dismissed as childish narcissists.

They are highly paid, but rarely listened to.

They are told that it’s “all about the work” but come to learn that it’s “all about the metrics” or “all about the relationship” or “all about the conversation” or “all about” whatever the cliche-of-the-month is.

When they say advertising is an art, their clients say it’s a business.

When they say it’s a business, their clients say it’s an art.

When they finally get something good produced, it fails.

When they produce mundane crap, it works.

When their friends like it, their clients hate it.

When their clients like it, their friends hate it.

They are encouraged to be collaborative. But the more people touch their work, the worse it gets.

They are counseled against becoming prima donnas. But they see that the people who get good jobs are often disagreeable monsters.

If they weren’t confused they’d be crazy.


One response to this post.

  1. I think the author of the Ad Contrarian post is a whiner. Sorry, Mr. Post Guy. We deal in one of the most subjective businesses around. So, yes, sometimes what we think is brilliance falls flat. Sometimes, what seems to be formulaic works (hence, the formula). I would urge all people on the creative side of THE BUSINESS to remember that it is a business. We’re here to sell shit. It’s just that our foot in the consumer’s door is often wearing a court jester’s shoe so we get confused. So, welcome to the land of confusion. Accept it. And be glad you’re not an architect — a person who must deal with all the same whims and pressures, except their screw-ups stick around a lot longer. A LOT longer.


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