My favourite ads of the decade, number 4: The New York Times, The Truth Is Worth It.

Like tomorrow’s number 3 choice, this is a very interesting campaign from the point of view of advertising and how to create it.

When I was at college, I was taught to prize the idea above all else. ‘Yeah, but what’s the idea?’ was the most withering put-down you could apply to someone else’s work, and for good reason: conceptual rigour was the (supposed) underpinning to an campaign’s strength and longevity.

It took me a long time to realize that this was not only bullshit, but that many of the greatest ads of all time had no discernible concept. From VW ‘Lemon’ to Budweiser ‘Wassupp’, execution could easily trump idea.

Which brings us to The Truth Is Worth It from Droga 5 and The New York Times. I don’t know what the team originally presented, but the idea, ‘Show what journalists go through to get the stories that appear in the NYT’ doesn’t sound that interesting or original.

Then you see the finished ads, and you realize technique and craft is all you need. Top-class writing, editing and typography take these stories and make them far more compelling than anything you read in the paper or see in the news.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen writing or typography like this before. It hooks you, adds to the story, and makes you think far more than straightforward words would. Every letter has been thought through to give us an improbable combination of matter-of-fact honesty and emotional heft.

One further point: this campaign appeared at a time when the New York Times was under fire from and undermined by some pretty powerful people: the stakes were much higher than the average toilet roll ad.

I’m not sure the team could have come up with anything better.