(I wrote this post a while back. But on this, the third day of our new year, it felt fitting to revisit it. It’s not exactly comforting. But perhaps a dose of cold reality is exactly what’s needed to focus and energise our efforts).
Look past all the rhetoric, the self-congratulation, the slick case studies, the creative awards, the campaigns du jour, the planning awards, the effective awards, the smartass blogs, the authoritative keynote speeches… and it’s plain that the vast majority of what we produce as an industry isn’t brilliant or even good.
Most of what our industry puts out into the world is banal, patronizing, derivative, lazy, insulting, hectoring, clumsy, polluting, stupid, repetitive, intrusive, toxic, or just plain irrelevant.
Perhaps this is not surprising at all. Perhaps advertising simply conforms to what the American science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon termed ‘Sturgeons Revelation’ (or Sturgeon’s Law as if is often referred to). As he put it in in the March 1958 issue of Venture magazine:
“I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.”
All that effort, all that ingenuity, all that inspiration, all those years perfecting one’s craft, all those long hours, all that Powerpoint, all those brilliant rationales, all those missed school plays and cancelled dates, all those postponed vacations and pizza-fuelled nights at the agency, all those lovers never loved, all those bedtime stories never told, all those plans postponed, all those promises broken, all those interests never pursued… To produce crap?
I know from firsthand experience that producing crap takes just about as much time and effort as producing stuff that’s good or better. So we have a choice. We can choose to make those sacrifices in the name of producing crap, or in the name of producing something good.
As a new year begins, as we switch the laptops back on, as we resume the rhythms of the working week, picking up unfinished tasks and starting fresh ones… as clients, as creatives, as account people, as planners, let's say no to crap.
Because if we aren’t going to reclaim more of our lives, then at the very least we should reclaim our standards.