Effectiveness Versus Uberwank: Away Win

Many people in advertising think that creatives just like to make nice little films and couldn’t give the first shit about whether or not they sell anything.

And, for the most part, they’re right.

But it stands to reason. If you put a monkey in a cage and reward him for raising his right hand/paw, why would he care about raising his left? Ultimately, raising his left is probably necessary to stave off arthritis, but it’s not going to get him a peanut.

The problem is that the two objectives started in the same place, but they have since diverged in ways that now leave them diametrically opposed.

In the first days of ‘creativity’ (thank you, Mr. Bernbach), every molecule of intelligence, lateral thinking and originality was expended in pursuit of the sale or the brand-build (usually the sale). VW Lemon was a brilliant attempt to sell cars when most car ads were patronising tosh.

But as ‘creativity’ developed, confusion arose: if ads that were harder to get were better, wouldn’t an ad that was virtually impossible to get be the apex of quality? If a lack of brash hard-sell was a good thing, wouldn’t trying not to sell be an even better thing? And if intelligence improved on bovine condescension, then wouldn’t the highest possible brow lead to the best possible communication?

It’s like saying that if an aspirin is great for relieving pain, then 100 would be brilliant.

Over the years, every step in the wrong direction devalued every step in the right one. Creativity began to be dismissed as indulgence and this theory was only compounded by the success of ads that continued to smash the consumer over the head with the dumb and the crass. There have been many awful ads that have been awfully effective, and they are all nails in the coffin of creativity.

But at some point, advertising awards were created and they were given to the work that attempted quality, with little or no interest paid to quantity (of sales). An ad that pushed the boundaries of aesthetics but increased sales by 5% would do better than an ad that pushed those boundaries a little less, but increased sales by 50%.

So the raises, promotions and kudos have gone to the creative pioneers, not necessarily the great salesmen.

And that’s the 100% logical reason why creatives have no incentive to care about effectiveness.

Until they get rewarded for sales, they will barely care about such insignificant irrelevances.

And that’s the topic for the question of the week.

(By the way, I’m dismayed that John pipped George H. to be Best Beatle. George is responsible for Something, Here Comes The Sun, Within You Without You, Taxman, The Life of Brian and Withnail and I. John? I think he seemed a bit nasty. Great songs though. Obviously, Paul and Ringo can go and whistle.)