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

Let’s Remember We’re Good, But Not That Good …
March 7, 2014, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

A long time ago, when I was doing my Google experiment, I went out for drinks with a gentleman called Jonathan Rosenberg.

At the bar, I saw someone I vaguely knew who was a creative at a multinational ad agency. I’m not sure if it was the industry success he had enjoyed over the years that made him who he was, or whether it was just his natural state, but he was a bit of a dick.

Anyway, he came over with a friend – who happened to be a planner he worked with – and after some introductions, they sat down to join us.

Unsurprisingly, within minutes, this guy started talking about his work and the awards he’d won. Of course he was trying to be casual about it, but you knew his whole self-worth was wrapped up in those little statues he collected.

Then – out of nowhere – Jonathan asked,

“I don’t work in advertising, so what do you think is a great example of its power?”

After they thought about it for a few minutes, having some private discussion, they surprised us by saying ‘Lux soap’.

Yes, bloody Lux Soap.

I remember looking at them and thinking they had only chosen that to either confuse us or to try and look interesting and imaginative.

“Why?” we asked … to which Mr Dick replied something like:

“Advertising turned a piece of soap into a profitable business that withstood wars and countless competitors”.

Fair point. Not the greatest point. But a fair point.

But it was here that Jonathan did something awesome.

You see he hadn’t actually explained where he worked or what he did – I’d just introduced him as a friend of mine – and it was at this point he decided to destroy their ego.

He looked at them and replied that he thought their point was interesting but subjective and as he didn’t know the brands history, he couldn’t tell if they had a point or not. He added that while the advertising had obviously helped the brand, it was the creator of the product who really had made the impact.

Mr Dick asked him for to give an example of something he thought was worthy of recognition to which Jonathan replied something like “the Android operating system” to which – and I remember the smug look on his face – Cockhead said that he thought the point was interesting but also subjective.

And it was here I was in the presence of a magic moment, because Jonathan – the SVP of Product Management for Google – looked him square in the eye by saying,

“Oh, it’s not subjective, I helped create it”.


It was amazing. Sure, it was also egotistical … but I can ignore that because the moment was so bloody good.

The reason for this story is that I worry sometimes that adland seems to think it knows it all and can do everything better than everyone else.

We’re good. We can be really, really good … but that doesn’t mean we’re the best and it certainly doesn’t mean we can do things better than others, because if we could, we would have invented Square rather than make a bunch of ads saying, ‘Bank X really cares about small business so why don’t you come in and have a chat’.

We are a creative industry. We are creative thinkers. We are also deluded and full of self doubt and self importance.

I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone said only the advertising industry has people that they label ‘creative’ working within it. Artists, writers, musicians, game designers [etc etc] don’t label themselves that way … they just get on with doing stuff that the masses call creative.

In other words, one gets their label of creativity as a byproduct of what they do, the other wants people to think they are creative before they’ve started doing anything to justify it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some amazingly talented – and creative – people in our industry, I just don’t think we have any right to think we’re more creative than others, especially when they are doing stuff that has more impact, influence and commercial value than all the stuff we do put together.

And with that, I will leave you with an interview with Tony Fadell.

While he has never made an ad or worked in an agency or hung out at the Gutter Bar in Cannes or even judged a major award show, I think he still is worthy of being called creative given he created the iPod and started Nest to name but a few things.

[Pay close attention to his view on Smart TV’s and Home Automation. It’s hilariously accurate]

I suppose what I’m saying is that if we keep thinking our competition are other agencies – be that media, creative or digital – we are going to end up on the scrap heap in the blink of an eye because while adland has a lot to offer and can do amazing things, I genuinely believe we can reach completely new levels of influence and creativity if we start to look, listen, learn, embrace and attract the sort of people and industries who infiltrate culture through their version of creativity.

To do that will require a huge amount of things to change – from a new financial model to new client relationships and contacts to new training and approaches [to name but a few] – but I’d be more frightened about IDEO setting up an ad agency division than feeling a sense of hope if JWT announced they were about to launch a product development arm.

It’s up to us and the easiest first step is to change our collective mindset.

[A clearer version of the article can be viewed here]

30 Comments so far
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But I am sure he will agree that his finest accolade has been appearing in a post on this blog. Another excellent read Robert. It feels like the b-side to yesterday’s. Or should I refer to it as the double a-side?

Comment by George

thats a fucking reference that shows you need to be pensioned off. hey world, mr fucking auntie is paid to create your future so feel safe the fucker still refers to a sides and b sides.

Comment by andy@cynic

I believe the term is referred to as retro.

Comment by George

only old fucks call it retro, everyone else calls it history.

Comment by andy@cynic

You mean like ‘We Are The Champions’ and ‘We Will Rock You’? You won’t get any complaint from me.

And I’m sure Jonathan will feel that way. Long ago, he made the odd comment on this blog. I think that was when he realised he had to leave Google to save his sanity. He owes me. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Great read Rob. I have always admired your appreciation of the breadth of creativity. It goes far beyond the usual scope of someone within the advertising industry. I particularly liked this paragraph.

(About artists, writers, musicians, game designers) “One gets their label of creativity as a byproduct of what they do, the other wants people to think they are creative before they’ve started doing anything to justify it.”

So true. So good.

Comment by Pete

so fucking sickening.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s always bugged me to be honest Pete.

If we accept someone who calls themselves cool’ is basically showing they’re not, what does having a business card calling yourself ‘creative’ say?

Comment by Rob

they always had shit fucking titles at the goog.

Comment by andy@cynic

What do you think Baz?

Comment by DH

why are you the only fucking planner who likes adding layers to shit. you take a fucking age to get to the fucking point. despite that, its an ok point which makes a fucking change. and id shit myself more if my dog threatened to start an ad agency than if jwt said they were launching anything. have you seen the state of the shit theyre doing in the us right now? fuck me, the commander would sink his fucking boat if he knew his future business was going to cause that much of a fucking mess.

Comment by andy@cynic

Are you OK?

Comment by Rob

That dudes face in the article is horrible. He has more scars than Seal.

I don’t have any comment about the post, I never read them.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Congratulations Billy, best and wisest comment you’ve ever written.

Comment by DH

who wrote that for you? they were worth the money.

Comment by andy@cynic

He’s certainly got gadget-lovers bang to rights.

Comment by John

Sorry for the serious comment but the difference between the stuff Fadell creates and the stuff adland tries to create is one is about usefulness and the other is about empty flashiness. The other way of saying it is one is made by someone with confidence and credibility and the other is made by people who crave attention from their ad peers. I promise never to write something like this again.

Comment by DH

I promise never to read it.

Comment by John

never fucking humiliate yourself with shit like that again.

Comment by andy@cynic

Who are you?

Comment by Rob

Another excellent read Robert. I hope you keep it up.

Comment by Lee Hill

You know the answer to that Lee. Sorry.

Comment by Rob

Rob…i feel to hang my self..Good Read. Because i associate with some big agencies here in India and they think (agency and clients here) still like Croods.

Comment by OldMonk

Adland does hubris better than anyone else.

Comment by northern

It’s our proprietary system. Mainly because no one else wants it. Except politicians.

Comment by Rob

Reblogged this on preezyblog and commented:
Let’s Remember grate ideas are everywhere if we look at the world

Comment by peacelydread

The back & forth of Lux vs. Android reminds me of one of my favorite stories….

I’m probably breaking some unspoken comment etiquette by posting half the story and flooding the wall … but it’s a great read.

“Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check”. Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”

And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done – in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn.

Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A.came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.

For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.”

Comment by Bryan

Is top gun you’re favorite movie?

Comment by DH

I liked the joke you made. The one about this blog having etiquette. Funny.

Comment by DH

Only for the volleyball scene ….

Comment by Bryan

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