In 1944, the Messerschmidt 262 was the world’s first jet fighter plane, no one had even seen a plane without propellers.
It was at least 100 mph faster than anything else in the sky, at a stroke it made all other planes obsolete.
But it can’t have been any good because Germany lost the war.
Lionel Messi was rated as the best footballer in the world, he won the Ballon d’Or 7 times, more than any other player.
But he can’t have been any good because he never won the World Cup.
Some people consider Mozart to be the finest composer of all time, his symphonies, operas, and chamber music have never been equalled.
But he can’t have been any good because he died penniless, buried in a common grave.
Rolls Royce has a reputation as the best-made car in the world.
But it can’t be any good because Toyota sell two thousand times as many cars as Rolls Royce.
Jaws changed the way movies are made and marketed.
It was one of the most successful movies ever, the first time a film had ever opened at every cinema simultaneously.
But it can’t be any good because it didn’t win the Oscar.
Alexander McQueen was Britain’s greatest-ever fashion designer, but he can’t have been any good because M&S sell literally tons more clothes than he did.
All of these are silly examples of measuring the success of something by the wrong criteria.
In each case, how good something is has no bearing on an outcome in a different area.
They are being judged by the wrong measurement.
You don’t judge Rolls Royce simply by how many cars they sold, or Mozart by how much money he made.
That would be silly, but that’s exactly what we do in advertising.
I see people writing that an ad must be good because the sales figures are up, or an ad must be bad because sales figures are down.
This is not the criteria for the creative department any more than the fact that Van Gogh never sold a painting means his paintings were bad.
The people in the creative dept should do their best possible work despite the other factors that affect results.
All we can do is our best possible work in our sector.
We can’t be held responsible for every other factor in the overall outcome.
The fact that people now attribute the success or failure of a product or brand purely to the advertising is a way of dodging responsibility for their own sector.
The job of the creative dept is to do the best advertising, advertising that gets noticed, liked, remembered, and talked about.
Awareness is the job the advertising should be doing.
But currently that is done purely by the media department: make a single ad and spend every penny on getting that one ad seen again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again…
Repetition is the job, so everything is directed toward how many spots we can buy.
Why waste money making more and better ads, just spend the money buying more spots.
In an atmosphere like that, how can the ads be anything other than space fillers?
And if constant repetition works, well it must mean the ads are good, right?
Just bashing people over the head with the same old ad again-and-again worked, so it must be good advertising, right.
Of course repetition works, after a style, but please don’t confuse that with good ads.
That’s why it’s crucial to get the criteria right.
Salieri made more money than Mozart, does that means he was a better composer?
As Einstein wrote, “Everyone is a genius at something, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its life believing it is stupid”.
Remember that the ad consistently voted by consumers as the best ad of the entire 20th century was John Webster’s ‘Smash Martians’.
But that can’t have been any good because Cadburys Smash sales are down.