Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dear Mr. Ogilvy, is being a seller, the same as being creative?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
"It is not creative unless it sells" - this is the actual quote of David Ogilvy. Now that we got that out of the way, I am starting to have issues with this. Because the reverse premise "if it sells it does not mean it is creative" might not hold true. This being said, lately, I am all for "hard sell" ads or what I always refer to the Nike Air Zoom launch during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics that went "tell us what it is, tell us what it does, and don't play the national anthem while you do it".
OK, let me recap. As of late, and with the mediocre level of creativity found in the market, when uncultured people (and by this I mean not versed in any culture, I do not have an axis of betterment between cultures) pretend to come up with creative ideas which are at best half-cooked and stale, I am having a tendency to go back to the basics of advertising, to the comfort zone of - this costs this much and comes with such and such features.
But this comes - not from my animosity towards creativity, far from it - but rather from my animosity to mediocre creativity.
Which brings us to the current dilemma.
A fantastically creative friend of mine just got turned down in an agency in Dubai (he is already working there, and wished to shift). The reason? His portfolio. Filled to the brim with ads he has done there, the ads - technically impeccable, incredibly well-shot TVCs and what not - was simply saying "I sell". Was he creative? You bet and very much so. His older material which he generated in Lebanon only prove it - the gimmicks and word plays, the ideas and the concepts, the rather uncomplicated visuals that stress the concept. Everything was there.
Then he moved to Dubai.
I am not saying Dubai is not creative, far from it. But truth be told, like everywhere else and especially when agencies have regional headquarters there, it stresses the element of "if you are not a lowest-common denominator seller, then the idea is not "creative" (or un-creative) enough for the client".
The reason he got turned down what that the creative director of the new agency wanted to "prioritize art based creatives" when they were specifically calling for a copywriting based position. But all of this is understandable when "to sell" is being identical in the market with "to be creative".
No one can accuse David Ogilvy of being un-creative. For heaven's sake he's David Ogilvy. But those who interpret his words as being a call to just "sell" are missing the point. The ad has to be "creative" over and above all else.
And only when it is creative, does it sell.
If it sells, it does not necessarily imply it is creative.