Of course!… But maybe…

Back before he was canceled (then won a Grammy), Louis CK had a ‘bit’ called ‘Of course… but maybe’:

“Everybody has a competition in their brain of good thoughts and bad thoughts. For me, I always have both. I have the thing I believe, the good thing. And then there’s this thing (cue villainous gesture). And I don’t believe it…but it is there.

“It’s become a category in my brain that I call ‘of course…but maybe.’

“(For example) Of course, children who have nut allergies need to be protected. We need to segregate their food from nuts, have their medication available at all times; anybody who manufactures or serves food needs to be aware of deadly nut allergies. Of course.

“But maybe if touching a nut kills you, you’re supposed to die.”

You can watch it here:

If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch the whole clip, he gives the same treatment to military deaths and – yikes! – slavery. Despite the plummet his reputation then took, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t really hold these positions, but who knows?

In that spirit, anyone who has worked in advertising for a while can probably produce their own examples. For some reason, our industry is full of strange contradictions, and yet no one seems to care enough to do anything about them (aside from this post, which is bound to sort out the entire mess by the end of the day).

For example…

Of course our work should be original and different. Of course! That’s how it stands out from the other stuff, and standing out is essential to being noticed. If no one notices your work, it doesn’t matter how good it is, so we must all endeavour to produce advertising that is nothing like the ‘content’ that surrounds it.

But maybe… But maybe we need to follow best practices, especially in digital media where we know for sure what kind of images and writing will be most successful. So for maximum effectiveness, we should use the same data as everyone else to reach the same insights as everyone else, and place our work in all the same locations as our competition and have our messaging look exactly the same as theirs.

Of course we should make sure our work is simple. Throw one tennis ball and it’s easy to catch; throw a few and its impossible to catch anything. Every communication we offer should reduce any complexity down to the kind of concision that is easy to understand and remember.

But maybe… Maybe the clients won’t think they’re getting enough work for their money unless every single thing we say to them comes in the form of a 128-slide deck presented over the course of three hours. In addition, maybe we should litter billboards with QR codes, use fifteen separate media channels, and expect punters to engage with ads that are five minutes long. Maybe?

Of course we should use a client’s money and public messaging opportunities to improve the world! Of course! Nothing makes more sense than rechanneling the ill-gotten gains of capitalism into initiatives that will benefit the marginalised and forgotten. It’s like a socioeconomic Robin Hood thing, and what could be better than that?

But maybe… But maybe purpose-based efforts are just expensive exercises in wokewashing, greenwashing and whitewashing the bad behaviour of giant corporations, allowing them to game any SEO negativity, while sending lots of money in the direction of the ad industry, who then become complicit in the deceit as they give these sneaky corporate disguises their highest awards.

See? It’s easy. I bet you can think of others:

Endless collaboration/all opinions matter equally vs Accountability and the quality of a singular vision.

Jingles are cheesy and lazy vs I still remember jingles from 30 years ago.

Only present work you want to make vs We only had one idea we we want to make but we can’t back the client into the corner with only one choice, so we’d better show three ideas, even through we don’t really like two of them.

AI is a fantastic tool for creativity vs AI is coming for the jobs of all creative people, thus destroying true creativity.