How do you make a great ad?

I only ask because I think I’ve seen things happen every which way:

Brilliant scripts made into bad ads.

Nothing scripts made into great ads.

Throwaway briefs that won pencils.

Great budgets, good clients and the best director in town fucking up something so badly it didn’t even run.

Leftfield nonsense making the whole planet laugh.

Leftfield nonsense leaving the whole planet cold.

Risks failing.

Risks succeeding.

Experienced creatives being 100% sure of decisions that turned out to be completely wrong.

Happy accidents.

CD interventions that saved ads

CD interventions that destroyed ads.

Client comments that everyone fretted about for ages, then implemented with no detrimental effects.

Client comments that turned so-so ads into award-winners

Dead ads brought back to life by sound engineers, editors, Flame operators, assistant producers, junior account people, planners or spouses.

Etc. etc. etc.

So what combination of circumstances are we trying to achieve to create repeated success? After all, surely that’s what we’re aiming for.

Are we just playing the odds that suggest the more the CD gets involved, the more numerous the improvements? That deeper preparation and harder work will lead to better results? That collaborating with those who have the best track record will be most likely to bring excellence?

Or that a good CD will step away and just let talented people get on with it? That loosening things up and leaving them to chance is the only thing that will create real magic? That taking a chance on a newbie will bring an essential freshness of perspective?

Perhaps we need to take a step back and say that none of the above are guaranteed keys to top work; more that the best thing you can do is develop a good sense of when to take which path – when to hold and when to fold.

The paths to greatness are many, varied and, if you try to work them out, contradictory.

So don’t bother. Or bother a lot.

Whatever works.