"I Like It" "So What?"

One of the things I like most about our agency is that when someone says something like "I think this works better" someone else always asks why.

Being able to explain why you think one thing is better than another is vital to our industry - because we need to do it if we want to get people to make better advertising.

Nothing in advertising is pure art, pure creative, for its own sake. We use the power of artistic techniques and creative crafts for a reason - to make communication more effective.

If you're putting something in a piece of communication that isn't there to make it more effective, just for your own artistic reasons or to win a creative award, you're probably a hack. Sorry about that.

This is why the language of how we talk about advertising is vital.

We have to be able to talk to senior people in client companies about why the creativity or craft will be more effective.

One of the fascinating, yet slightly crazy, things about advertising, is that it seems even the people who work in advertising can't agree on what is 'good'.

And I think part of the reason for that is that people are often not arguing about whether something is 'good' or not at all.

They're just saying they like it. So it becomes subjective.

I hear people say I like this.

Woopee-fucking-do. I like pineapple on pizza.

I don't care, quite frankly, whether you like it or not.

Instead, let's have a conversation about what makes it work. Why do you think it will work?

That's a conversation that professional people should be having.

Liking an ad is a privilege of the amateur.

Does it do what it's meant to do?

Why will this do the job well?

I still believe that there is no single 'formula' for what makes something a 'good' piece of advertising, which I think can only be a good thing, can't it?

But because of this, we have to become better as an industry, creatives, planners, everyone, at having a proper conversation about why things work, and why our creativity and craft makes things work better.

Until we all magically find clients who will just let us do whatever we think is right (I'm not sure that's a good idea by the way), this is the only way better advertising is going to be made.

With a respectful doff of the cap to Dave Trott


  1. You had me until you said you like pineapple on pizza. Sacrilegious! With a respectful doff of my cap to Frank the owner of my favorite pizza joint.

  2. Pineapple on pizza, you filthy pervert! On a serious note, the 'I like it' brigade are usually the sorts of people who need Radio 1 to tell them what's good. Never trust anyone who says 'I like it/don't like it' as though that's all there is to say. When pushed, most can't explian themselves further.

  3. Ham, pineapple & some bbq sauce. Nom nom nom...

  4. Pizza topping jokes… Humm… The industry (which we are supposed to be one of the World leaders at) is being totally and utterly, 100%, shafted and destroyed from all sides.

    The posts on here are good but they only apply to Agencies/Clients that are willing to change! No wonder so much work is being done in-house now, as soon a client gets a whiff of very expensive mediocre work why wouldn't they start building a semi decent studio in-house? They are poaching talent from agencies, and why not? Yes the work ranges from "passable" to "ok-ish" to "goodish" to "that's not bad actually" but so does most of the work coming out of the flipping Agencies.

    Maybe ad's have had their day? Like the 3 minute Rock and Roll song has, it's tired, it's worn out, it's done. An art form of any kind even a commercial one can't last forever, and ad's aren't actually breaking new ground are they? Maybe this is why Digital (mediocre spamming work) is running rough shot over every thing? Because it's all just wallpaper.

    Even top creatives on 80K+ are just clocking in, producing exactly the same work the clients wants, never rocking the boat, and clocking out, then going home to dream about opening up a micro brewery with their old Uni mate "Tarquin Tuppence the 3rd" - Tarquin wears a cravat, smokes a long cigarette, looks out of the window a lot, and has a Mr Bingo print in his hall way. Ohh and he used to work in "Big Data"! (said in a 'Toast of London' style voice) ;-)

    1. Advertising has existed for as long as the written word, and probably existed before. And as Bob Hoffman has said, when the meteorite hits the only two species left on earth will be cockroaches and copywriters.

      Sell Sell have made their views clear on the subject - they think advertising lost its way because of lazy/entitled creatives, lazy/entitled clients, and a lack of willingness by both to fight for work that's actually good using tried and true methods. (Present company hopefully excepted.)

      I think it goes even deeper than that. I think a lot of people - now more than ever before - want something for nothing. A huge number of them don't really believe in hard work (in any capacity) because they've never really done it. And creating a good ad is very, very hard. That's why so many things have cropped up that are 'advertising adjacent' without actually involving the difficulty of creating a killer poster or a great 30 or whatever. If we get the 'strategy' right, the ad will take care of itself. No need to worry about the ad, we need to focus on the 'messaging framework' for now. No need to worry about the ads, let's focus on programmatic.

      Doing these things fools people (and the people around them, and their clients on occasion) into thinking they've actually worked hard, because many of them take a lot of time to complete. But it's activity as a substitute for achievement.

      The difficult thing about that is clients - especially younger ones - genuinely don't know the difference because their entire experience of agencies is soured by this crap.

      Clients see a 300 page deck, it looks like the agency's done a lot of heavy lifting... then they see the work, and it's not great. And they think 'Well fuck it, at the very least let's get our name out there so we can get a bit of awareness in.' And they ask for the logo to be bigger. Or the product function to be included in very literal terms. And then when they leave to set up their own businesses or to 'consult' they spread the word: Advertising isn't all that effective, you might as well just spend the money on DM and display because at least it contributes to a few extra sales per quarter. And to be honest, who can blame them for arriving at that conclusion? Who's been there to show them any different?

      Nobody. That'd be hard work, wouldn't it?

  5. Thanks for the interesting comments. Goes without saying I hope that we walk-the-walk of what we write every day here at Sell! Towers. It's not the easy road but we think worth it for the quality of work and long-term client relationships we build.

    I feel a bit uneasy about what we think being summed-up so reductively above, but yes that is certainly part of the problem.

    If you'd like to know the ins and out of what we think needs to happen to improve advertising output and how agencies and clients work I'd say read our book, but unfortunately it's sold out.......

    Plenty to go at on this blog though... ;-)

    1. A Message to Artists from Terence Mckenna (Bill Hicks was a fan): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5wrcMiT2jM

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Yep Dave wrote a piece on the topic of 'liking' versus things working a few years ago.

    2. Perhaps this one http://davetrott.co.uk/2017/04/decorating-v-plumbing/ ?


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.