2017: A new year, an old resolution

not funny

It’s the first working week of a new year for me.

A good enough reason as any to revisit and recommit once again to an old resolution.

Because here’s the thing.

Look past all the rhetoric, the confident future gazing, the self-congratulation, the slick case studies, the awards, the campaigns du jour, 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, mediocre, unremarkable.

Some of it is much, much worse – patronizing, insulting, hectoring, polluting, stupid, intrusive, toxic.

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 it 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.”

And yet.

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 conference calls… all those missed school plays and cancelled dates, all those postponed vacations, all those lovers never loved, all those bedtime stories never told, all those plans postponed, all those promises broken, all those passions never pursued…

To produce crap?

I confess I know from years of firsthand experience that producing crap takes almost as much time and effort as producing stuff that’s good or better.

So it strikes me that 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 all say No to crap.

Crap conversations. Crap teamwork. Crap ambitions. Crap expectations. Crap standards. Crap objectives. Crap briefs. Crap advice. Crap feedback…

Because if we aren’t going to reclaim more of our lives, then at the very least we should maintain (or reclaim) our standards.


  1. Patrick Morrison

    No to crap of all types which reduce the richness, efficiency, effectiveness and trust levels in campaigning and using ideas to attract people to brands.
    No to automated media and marketing unless it’s continually given human tender loving care. No to the babble of the trade press held hostage by large agency groups.
    No to exploitative behaviour of so called milennials under 30 in agencies of all descriptions.
    No to 30 under 30 type excercises.
    No to overblown promise of tomorrow’s technology.
    No to a lifestyle and values dreamed up by techies in Silicon Valley.

    Yes to experienced people
    Yes to independence
    Yes to innovative thinking
    Yes to the thrill of the brilliant strategy and creative expression
    Yes to the care taken in the exposing ideas with impact clarity and noticeability being as much as the care taken in making them

    Here’s to making 2017 so much more than 2016

  2. Marcin Błajecki

    “Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong conception. They are written to please the seller. The interest of the buyer are forgotten.” Claude C. Hopkins 1923

  3. David White

    Speaking as someone who spent 30 years in advertising as a writer/ACD (and now an advertising recruiter), I’d like to present a reality check to the above article and first comment:
    The Golden Rule of Capitalism; “Them with the gold, rules.”
    So until you can convince, demonstrate and somehow prove that your / your agency’s approach is the best, you’re at the effect of The Rule.
    Ah, but it gets worse:
    Most people on the client side of marketing view their job as a stepping stone to their next advancement and they don’t want to f–k up. Ergo, bland, even crappy advertising. Actually, I continue to be amazed when really good advertising gets done.
    That’s it.
    You may now return to your frustrating, crappy, soul-sucking work.

  4. Pingback: 2017: A new year, an old resolution | canalside view | ALZX