Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Embedding an idea in shit doesn't make it viral.

Bad ads get ignored.
Good ads get noticed.
Great ads go viral.

And they always have. The difference is, people used to say "Did you see that commercial last night?'" and now they just put it up on YouTube.

The Dove transformation spot would have been talked about and shared 20 years ago.
"Where's the beef?" would be getting a zillion hits on YouTube if it had debuted last week.

Either way, a meme is replicating itself through the culture. Same process, new petri dish.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What I learned from the 2006 CA Advertising Annual

The Communication Arts Advertising Annual arrived yesterday and I fell upon it eagerly. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. If you want to do award-winning work, move to Singapore.

2. Everywhere but in the US, board games appear to be the most heavily advertised consumer product. That or Legos.

3. Contrary to what your account supervisor told you, 4-color spreads make good sense and are affordable for every client, regardless of budget.

4. A new agency can get into the CA Annual executing the old agency’s campaign (see pages 30 & 66).

5. Procter & Gamble can and will buy great work (Tide to Go, Cascade).

6. They will also buy incomprehensible dreck (Folgers) if you let them.

7. Radio is (and maybe always will be) your best shot at winning.

8. If there are no jobs in Singapore, move to Bangkok.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Change agents and the agencies they love.

If you’re going to flush your career down the toilet, are you really going to do it for this guy?

Just because he has an Aston Martin doesn’t make him Sean Connery. No matter how many cups of Nobu’s house sake you’ve downed.

Wal-Mart Fires Marketing Star and Ad Agency - New York Times

Monday, December 04, 2006

Arts and Crafts

Enough about art.

I’m here to talk about craft.

Not the Martha and her hot-glue gun kind of craft.

Or those dreadful outdoor fairs filled with stained-glass wine coasters and Labrador retrievers made out of macramé.

No, I’m talking about the look-how-beautifully-everything-fits-together kind of craft.

The first-you-make-the-sushi-rice-for-seven-years-and-then-you-can-slice-the-fish kind of craft.

And my point is that while a few ads do legitimately aspire to the level of art, craft is what keeps hundreds of ads every year from outright sucking.

Say “craft” to many in our business and the image that comes to mind is the prima donna sociopath, endlessly re-kerning type while the traffic manager flips out. If there’s someone like that at your agency, he may or may not be an artist. But he’s not a craftsman.*

Real craftsmen have a smoothness, an economy of thought and movement, that tempers their obsessive attention to detail. “Measure twice, cut once,” as the carpenter’s maxim goes.

Here are some other differences between art and craft:

Artists want—no, need-- their creation to be new and original.

Craftsmen have different, more immediate worries. Is it well-made? Is it honest? Does it work? Will it wear well?

The joy of art is in the conceiving and the beholding. The joy of craft is in the making.

Artists sign their work. Craftsmen do their work, and if they do it well and long enough, the work itself becomes a calling card.

Art is high-maintenance. Who does the maintaining? Craftsmen.

Art concerns itself with Big Things. Craft is democratic. Small-space trade ads, national TV campaigns, they all are things to be crafted. And if anything, the craft shines more brightly in the dark recesses of the obscure trade journal than in the glare of prime time.

Because, let’s face it, not a lot of people notice.

Only stubborn pride in craft compels an art director to slave over all those nasty titles in the Summer Sales Event spot so they come out clean and graphically coherent.

Meter, rhythm, syntax—if they’re in that bank-ad body copy at all, it’s because a craft-obsessed writer put them there.

That’s why, if I were a client, and I had to choose whether artists or craftsmen worked on my business, it would be such a no-brainer. It’s like asking a homeowner about to do a major addition whether he’d rather have Frank Gehry or Norm Abrams from “This Old House.”

Hell, I bet even Frank Gehry would rather have Norm.

*Apologies upfront to female practitioners. Craftsperson? Craftswoman? The language hasn’t caught up to the reality of your skills.