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Was it Loved?

Posted on September 12, 2011 and read 2,828 times

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pierno Was it Loved?Adam Pierno
Creative Director

Off Madison Ave in Phoenix

There is a phrase I use to describe creative work that I observe or interact with which feels like it has just fallen flat: “Nobody loved this.”

The end product reveals how the team that worked on the piece felt about it. But not merely about the creative. Of course there are times when an Art Director will put a project on his or her back and design the crap out of it to take it from average to greatness. Or when production values will disguise a mediocre idea as a revelation. When you look at work like the Google Chrome films, for example, you can see instantly that every person who touched those loved them. Everyone. Because it would have been easy to have those great ideas and coast into a slick, white, Apple-like set to shoot pristine props. But you can tell the team spent a lot of time thinking about the importance of the details of those sets. What showing you the rigging and putting it into an environment adds to and enriches the idea.

But when you see spots for a mobile carrier which use what is essentially the same idea as the Chrome Speed Tests, it is clear that nobody loved it. The idea is carried out without passion, and the execution is average. Not terrible, not even bad. But just what you’d expect from an idea that wasn’t loved. It’s average. The details in production design move the ideas along for thirty seconds but they don’t add any depth.

A creative project can be like a relationship. A teen relationship. It’s far too tumultuous and ridiculous to be a mature relationship. When we get a brief, we begin a series of decisions, which demonstrate and test our commitment to that relationship. Sometimes, we’re bucked from the ride by the initial email about the project by keywords in the meeting invite. Due today. Low-budget. FSI. No, we won’t be able to love this. But we could. If the assignment got to us at the exact right moment in our day, we could.

And when we’re briefed there is another flirtation. And we could be out of love again when we hear the details of the project, or the way the brief is presented, or the lines we read between about the relationship with the client. And when we sit down with the team to dig into the brief, we can call on our passion or we can sleepwalk through it. I have been guilty of making this choice myself, and I regret it. Because when you don’t love the project, you won’t commit to it. Your fear of commitment keeps you from examining more typefaces and textures. It keeps you from scrambling the words a few more times to invent a better way to say that smart thought in your head. It keeps you from seeking out a way to bring that idea to life. It keeps you from creating something transcendent.

In every project, there are reasons why it will be virtually impossible to create something great. But the greats still seem to do it. This applies to everyone involved, not just the Creative team. The planners digging for insights. The Account team figuring out how to sell this great idea. The Producer imagining option after option of how to pull this thing off. Right down to the studio team that has to assemble the final pieces. They all need to be brought into what I refer to as The Big Hug. Or else they won’t be committed.

And like any relationship in which one partner isn’t committed, it becomes average. Cliché. Just OK. You don’t dig. You don’t sacrifice. You don’t invest in things you don’t love. And the other side of this coin, of course, is that users, or viewers, or readers will see what you’ve done. They’ll be asked to climb inside and invest in it. And chances are, if you didn’t love it they won’t either.

  • Flavio Alvarez

    Beautiful piece Adam. I have never seen a better description of my own feelings about creating great work. 
    You know, in the few opportunities I have been involved with great projects, there is a palpable force from EVERYONE to get it done the right way and a certainty that when it’s done, everyone else will love it as much as we do. And that also includes the client, by the way. They say before you love someone else you have to be able to love yourself, and I think the same applies to advertising. To be able to love a project, you first have to love advertising. I don’t know how the great ones accomplish what they do on a daily basis. Maybe they make others fall in love along the way.

  • adam pierno

    Thanks, Flavio. You bring up a good point, just loving what you do at all is the basis for any inspiration. Most of us carry along so much insecurity and self-loathing that it’s hard to truly invest ourselves in the work at times. You’ve given me an idea for my next post here. I owe you one. 

  • Martin Murphy

    Nicely put, Adam! Hadn’t thought of it that way before.

    I think mediocre talent in all disciplines of advertising will read what you say, recognize it as true, and resign themselves to the fact that sometimes the stars just aren’t aligned for greatness. (Often with a sense of bitterness for the person that didn’t brief them just right, or the one that couldn’t bring it to life just right, etc.)

    Superior, professional talent will go through all of the same thinking, but will end it with “well, it’s too bad I’m not feeling the passion so far, but I’m being PAID to make it great. So let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out how to make this FSI brilliant”. Then they’ll go and kick some ass.

  • gary acord

    A very nice piece Adam, thank you, I’m using it as a discussion topic for my Advanced Ad students this morning.

  • Jane G

    I think it’s also about getting the client to love it and want to nurture it as well. Because even if the agency and production team are there, the client needs to get that love too–else you risk them turning into a one-armed monster with 100 eyes and no mouth. ;)




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