The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Why Adland Needs To Stop Judging Books By It’s Cover.
March 17, 2010, 6:29 am
Filed under: Comment

So a recent article in the NY Times talked about how Apple owes much of its success to the economics of elitism … and whilst I can see why they would say that, I still believe it is more about massperation than pure elitism.

The difference?

Well Apple have been able to find a way – by design or by good fortune – to still make their products desirable even when they’re the ‘establishment’ … and whilst I am sure many Apple owners think they’re better than individuals who don’t own or use their products … it could indicate the actual meaning of the word ‘elitism’ – like ‘luxury’ – has evolved and it’s definition can no longer be limited to simply representing a select group of people whose intellect, wealth, training or/or experiences enable them to be viewed by the masses as the group whose views carry the most weight or value.

Of course there’s many reasons for this high value perception … from the fact they beautifully under-design and powerfully engineer their products, right through to the fact that compared to their competitors [ie: Microsoft, IBM, SONY] they are smaller and less corporate so they have – and should have – a challenger brand persona. However regardless of the number of reasons [of which there will be many] the commercial value of this perception is huge because when people think of Apple, the general [Western] consensus will be that Apple make beautifully designed and engineered products that fundamentally understand people’s rational and emotional needs whereas the competition simply make products that perform ‘functions’.

Is this view fair?

Nope … and I do worry where Apple are going given they seem to be more focused on squeezing every last possible bit of profit from the iPod than the development of totally new tech [but as I wrote here, I can’t blame them]… however there was something in the article that I particularly liked and it was this:

Apple represents the “auteur model of innovation,” observes John Kao, a consultant to corporations and governments on innovation. In the auteur model, he said, there is a tight connection between the personality of the project leader and what is created. Movies created by powerful directors, he says, are clear examples, from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” to James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Let me show you something:

Film director James Cameron

W+K founder Dan Wieden

Apple’s Steve ‘GOD’ Jobs

BBH founder John Hegarty

Not very cool looking are they?

I’d bet if you went into a meeting room and didn’t know who they were, your first reaction would be to discount their creative intelligence creds because they didn’t ‘look the part’.

Hell, I bet that if they worked in adland, they’d be out on their ear by now – deemed to be ‘too old’ to be relevant, which is quite funny given they are still producing things that are not just impacting our World, but regarded as highly creative.

As many of you know, I have quite a close relationship with both Virgin and Google … and one of the things I’ve always found funny is how many people say they’re ‘cool’.

Let’s remember, Virgin is a company run by a dyslexic, bad-jumper wearing beardy 60 year old and the other is founded by a couple of tech nerds who have a logo that looks like it was designed by a kindergarten teacher.

A pensioner and a couple of colour blind geeks … and the World thinks they have companies that are cool!!

The thing is – like Jobs and Cameron etc – they have all created companies/products that are a reflection of themselves … companies/products that reflect their unshakeable belief in their philosophies, values and approach … which is why they can spend enormous amounts of time and money on elements that a more process-driven corporation would regard as superfluous because to them it’s more than just achieving financial success, it’s about proving to their peers [and themselves] that their ideas are right, with the masses as the biggest jury in the World.

This doesn’t mean Jobs, Branson etc aren’t commercially astute – that is that’s so far from the truth it’s not funny – but it does mean they ultimately want to be judged by what they do, not what they say … which is why this bunch of old and/or nerdy men have been able to impact society to a much greater extent than all the latest trend spouting, web 2.0, uber-cool, media commentators and agencies put together.

Do all trend spouting, web 2.0, uber-cool, media commentators and agencies talk shite?

Of course not – just like all the pensioners and nerds of the World aren’t impacting the planet with their great ideas – however what I would say is these old/nerd guys believe in the power of DOING STUFF … stuff that crosses categories because they are built on values and philosophy, not just capabilities … whereas my industry – an industry that is supposed to be all about applied creativity let us remember – seem far too comfortable these days just talking about doing stuff.

But do you know why I personally like these guys so much?

Because they all have companies that value creativity, rather than devalue age … so as a near-40-year old man who still feels he has a shitload to prove and achieve, it gives me hope I’m not ready for the scrap heap quite yet!

36 Comments so far
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are you on fucking drugs?

from apple and elitism to calling people who have helped pay your ridiculous fucking wages for fucking years a dyslexic beardy twat and a set of colour blind nerds. fucking genius even if youve just sent george, lee, baz and jonothan to the fucking loony bin.

i havent got the faintest fucking idea what this post is trying to say but the “value creativity, dont devalue age” is worth the price of trying to decipher the rest of the shit so it can pass, but if you ever say bollocks like “auteur model of innovation” i will come and kill you in the most painful way possible.

interesting choice of agency founders there campbell but i agree that if they didnt start their own places and have senior positions within those agencies theyd be fucked because the dumb twats in most of adland view relevance only in terms of a persona age regardless of their fucking body of work, viewpoint and attitude.

a 21 year old who likes oscar wilde is a genius.
a 45 year old who likes kings of leon is a sad twat.
a 21 year old md is a disaster.
a 45 year old md is smart.

all. fucked. up.

im fucking warming to this post.

Comment by andy@cynic

just seen your twatty football team lost again. suddenly this post becomes much fucking clearer.

Comment by andy@cynic

Really like this post. You’ve talked about massperation for a long time and I think there is great validity in what you’re saying though I also believe this change is being driven by societies need to demonstrate they belong thanks to technology encouraging greater physical isolation.

I also love the “value creativity, don’t devalue age” statement because the people you describe in the post all have personal physical characteristics that the creative industry (ie adland) would regard as old, irrelevant and boring.

Don’t judge a book by its cover indeed.

Great post.

Comment by Pete

You’re missing the point Andy. Robert may be dismissive of certain physical attributes of the people in his post but he’s doing it to make a wider point which is what they have done and what they continue to do makes a mockery of the widely held belief that to do cool, you must look, act and speak cool.

Well this is what I’m going to be telling Lee and John so let’s hope they believe it too. LOL.

Comment by George


Comment by John

auntie george: the united nations representative of keeping my pension healthy.

i was being a fucking smartarse george. what the fuck is wrong with the people on here these days, cant anyone take a fucking joke?

and i know no one will go to a loony bin because hes told at least 3 of the fuckers his views to their faces and if they didnt smack him in the gob then, theyll not fucking give a shit about his poxy opinion appearing on a blog that no fucker actually reads.

love you.


Comment by andy@cynic

What we have here is a difference between actually PRODUCING something (ads, laptops, movies) and the repackaging the EXISTING stuff (social media experts).

Making a movie will ALWAYS be harder than criticizing it on Rotten Tomatoes BUT the rewards for people introducing actually tangible products will always outshine the compensation for the most self assured ‘talking head’ (e.g. Chris Brogan)

It’s like a difference between talking about vs making a change.

Comment by Madison Morris

Snake oil salesmen are ALWAYS more entertaining and cooler than an actual doctor. Confucius also says that a PRETEND doctor on Tv will be always smarter, YOUNGER, more handsome and better versed in rare diseases than whoever you actually see in your clinic next flu season.

Comment by Madison

I found this post very entertaining and interesting but your overview of Richard will be live on forever.

Like many of the other commentators, I found your “value creativity, don’t devalue age” statement significant however most industries already do, only those who openly state they are creative seem to think and act differently.

Are you in Singapore now?

Comment by Lee Hill

Hi Madison, thanks for the comment and I get what you’re saying. Don’t know if it’s entirely true but I would say, as Lee suggested, it’s more prevelant in some industries over others … especially the ones who claim they’re free thinkers and open minded, oh the irony.

Yes I am in Singapore Lee, will call you as long as you agree more with George’s view on this post rather than Andy’s, ha.

Comment by Rob

lucky none of those blokes have boobs or ovaries, otherwise they’d have NEVER been taken seriously.

in terms of judging books by covers, none of those guys will have ever had their appearance really been a factor in being able to carry the message. and never will especially now that they’re old.

do you think any of them have ever considered dyeing their grey hair? botox? lyposuction? or maybe a back-cracking sack wax, so that the editors at Wired or B&T would continue to write about them, or so that the shareholders continue to trust their decisions? nuh. uh.

as much as i applaud your post, rob, (really, i do), adland and its long-lost-lover The Media has a LONG way to go before it even thinks about not judging books by covers.

Comment by lauren

power is the ultimate afrodisiac, Kissinger said. same applies to them guys, or any succesfull guy or gal ( I mean who could in his right mind munch some of them female politicians like Albright. Though that prez of argentia and the former leader of ukraine were ok…)

thanks for shedding light on these issues. Good post. And WTF is massperation?

Comment by Niko

You’re doing that call it 40 before you turn 40 routine. It worked for me too, but then I moisturise and can’t believe I made it past 30 so every day is extra.

Anyway that aside.

You’re one of the most original thinkers I know. I’ve had the good luck to see that over a few lunches in conversation so keep it up.

Comment by Charles Frith

Have you always had this view or just when you started realizing you’re getting close to the free bus pass? LOL.

Comment by DH

I know why you would say that Dave – especially when I go on that the only people who say “40 is the new 30” are forty – but I can honestly say I’ve always had this view, brought on when I saw a wonderfully brilliant, clever and relevant man … with years of experience and knowledge … get fired because at 50, he didn’t reflect the cool, hip image the MD wanted to convey, despite the fact he had a mullet and made me look like a snappy dresser.

That single decision ruined many lives … not just my friends, but the people at the agency who were also made redundent when the client left, citing unqualified business leadership.

The only positive is the twatty MD got fired shortly afterwards, but he managed to make as much damage in that short time as a landmine in a marketplace.

Charles: how the hell are you?

Been ages … you OK, well as OK as you can be after a certain twat we both now know by reputation.

Lauren: I know exactly what you mean … I suppose the bit that irks me most is this industry pretends to be open minded but they’re some of the most conservative and blinkered individuals I’ve ever met.

Comment by Rob

Sometimes I hate thus industry, i hate it’s conformity, I hate it’s ego and the twats that do well by playing the game rather than being any good. Take the Disruptions, who’s strandard bearing, piratical process actually leads to pretty predictable work, with a few notable exceptions that were fuck all to do with Disruption.
My ex boss actually said to my department – “I want you to all be working in exactly the same way”, which was mostly pointless workshops, both Disruption and Media Arts (not even Lee Clow really knows what Media Arts actually is).
I’m in a bad mood.
Good morning.

Comment by northern

Media Arts is a perfect example of things that piss me off with planning and advertising …

From what I know of it, it’s a interesting concept that has been post rationalised and “tweaked” to death so TBWA/Chiat can try and sell it to other clients for shitloads of cash even though the examples they give to showcase its power are way more influenced by the clent in question than the process.

As the Google guys said to me, how can you have a fixed process and expect to deliver different results.

Pretty smart those Google boys … except where international relations are concerned.

I like you in bad mood NP.

Comment by Rob

It’s just a fancy name for comms planning. No more, no less. Disruption is supposed to be BOTH brand planning and a stage in comms planning – so already it’s stupid – and misses the obvious place to start, what’s interesting about the product/brand? No, scratch that, what’s the REAL objective?

Comment by northern

Good job I didn’t go to Chiat like they were asking me too then isn’t it NP, hahaha!

Don’t think they were too gutted, especially after I had asked …

“When are you going to stop banging on about an ad you made quarter of a century ago [Apple’s 1984] and start creating modern history”


Comment by Rob

It certainly is. although if they could just get their heads out of their arses it could be really good- the premise of right place to connect between consumer and brand is still right I think, but when they start blathering about 5 conversations and endless workshops and ‘becoming what people are interested in’ it just loses it.
Still think you could have sorted it out if they’d actually really wanted that (and the Pepsi US work is OK)

Comment by northern

To be fair, there’s some great people there – people who I really would loved to have worked for/with – but sadly there was too many who wanted the company to make money from process consultancy rather than the application of imaginative, yet effective ideas.

And besides, LA drive me nuts. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Media Arts is a term uses to make ourselves feel better about sitting in front of a computer all day.

Comment by lauren

Nice. Evil. But nice.

Comment by Rob

and rob – those are the reasons i’ve stayed on this side of the fence. they might be naive wankers with too much time on their hands, but artists are still primarily people who actively rebel against conservatism and complacency.

Comment by lauren

I know what you’re saying Lauren and I agree with you, but there are some agencies who try and do things with the attitude of the true artist … but it’s always going to be impacted when they are representing a 3rd party rather than themselves.

Saying that, I think you’d be fucking awesome on the darkside because you could find a way to make them happy and still do great stuff. It might not be as great as you could do … but it would be greater than most others.

Jesus, I’m Blog Oprah.

Comment by Rob

i know there are loads of agencies who do try to do things with the attitude of an artist (and i love them too). in the same way that there are a bunch of icky artists who spend a hell of a lot of time trying to be an ad agency. 🙂 devil’s advocate service here.

the dark side. maybe one day.

Comment by lauren

stop showing off campbell. the only reason you get job offers is because you dont drink and they need a soft twat to ferry the good time friends of charlie around.

talking of good times, why the fuck is anyone posting on here when its saint get pissed day. i like a good agency slagfest as much as the next bastard (and northern is much more fucking interesting these days) but get your priorities right and go and get smashed. its not drinking on the job, its fighting for multiculturalism.

Comment by andy@cynic

Still been reading even if I’ve not been commenting.

Love this post. It reminded me why I love being in companies who do things other people say are creative rather than brands/agencies who just “position” themselves that way.

Back after the roll out of Andy’s favorite new product launch. 😉

Comment by Bazza

Forget that – when are the new macbooks coming?

Comment by John

i think you meant to ask when are the new free macbooks coming.

and that question better of been aimed at baz because if it was at me youre going to be very fucking disappointed.

Comment by andy@cynic

so you finally show your face again baz. well if id tried to flog an oversized ipod touch as an innovative new product id be feeling pretty fucking shifty as well.

ill help you out.

send me 20 free and ill pretend i liked it so much i had to buy lots of them. this once in a lifetime offer is only available for the next 9 months so tell god and dont miss out.

Comment by andy@cynic

They focus on , and DO the things they know they are good at rather than trying to earn credibility and notoriety by what they say.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oh, and iPad will live and die by whether society finds a great use for it. I’m not confident…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

oh yeah, and northern in a bad mood is awesome reading.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

A wee bit pissed of that I was away when this was posted. So much to say. So much to say.

Comment by Marcus

It was ony posted yesterday + 45 minutes, so go ahead … I’d be interested to hear your point, though I think/hope, you are in agreement with the general sentiment I’m going on about … afterall, I could have put your photo up there as an example of a creative doer rather than a creative industry ‘type.

Comment by Rob

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