Advertising. Its practitioners rank right up there with members of Congress and used car salesman. Maybe I should say rank right down there. Why that is so isn’t hard to figure out. I imagine it’s because its practitioners are as varied in competence and degree as one finds in most professions.
Take lawyers for example. Hate for lawyers goes way back. But when you find yourself in trouble with the cops, who ya gonna call? But as to advertising, its practitioners are invested heavily in touting their own worth. This is best evinced by the plethora of advertising award competitions.
Anyone familiar with the practices of any profession recognizes that each has its own self-congratulating societies. The movie folks have the Academy Awards and the Cannes film festival and whatnot. Entertainershave almost as many award competitions and shows as there are fans, or so it seems. I’m sure bankers have their own self-love banquets and awards. As do accountants and plumbers and bartenders for all I know. Googling pretty much confirms that if there’s a profession, there’s an award to be won for practicing it. It’s only natural. Who better than your peers to decide if what you’re doing is better than what other people who do what you do have to say about what you are doing? If nothing else, the syntax of the last sentence is perhaps some cause for doubt as to the value of winning. But for sheer desire, ad creatives hanker after a big time ad award for reasons as varied as career advancement to insecurity — or both.
Yet advertising is curious in the number of its award competitions — and within each competition there is a disciplined parsing and restricting of categories, making it possible for the hosts of these competitions to collect fees for entering and the entrees the ability to stab at more chances to win. Every ad competition worth its salt comes with fees for entry. Some require winners to pay extra for the trophies used to adorn their lobbies. Only fair I suppose. Hardware isn’t free.
All this brings me to reflect on the worth of advertising competitions. I have won a few awards in the business. I got into the ad game late — I was 41 years old when an agency gave me a shot at this crazy business. This in itself is pretty remarkable, as ad agency creative talent is generally between 23 and 35, after which they become irrelevant, mostly because they are “clueless” and aren’t connected to what’s happening. It’s hard to find an old art director or copywriter, and by old I mean someone over 40 as I’ve written before.
None of this is an excuse for not winning one of the premier awards, just a nod to the ridiculous hours young creatives give to their craft, generally at the cost of a personal life, if by personal life one means doing something totally unrelated to work like spending time with your lover or kids or fishing with fishing buddies. But I did get to do ads that ran in two Super Bowls and one that made noise on the national evening news.
But noise and attention, you know, actually selling stuff your clients hire you to do, is generally beside the point when it comes to advertising competitions. There are some that take actual revenue increases based on an ad campaign’s impact. But mostly, it’s a competition judged by people who make ads for a living. Back in the aughts, the agency that did Burger King’s work won a bunch of prestigious awards. But the work didn’t move the needle. Didn’t steal share from McDonald’s or Wendy’s. It pretty much appealed to the gang who already like eating at Burger King.
Sour grapes! my ad brethren and sistern will say. True enough. I’m well past caring too much about winning advertising awards to advance my career. My god, I’m 65 years old — hopelessly clueless. What I care about is crafting words and pictures that will help my clients sell stuff. Get noticed. Raise money. Win customers. Yes, sometimes wickedly clever ads can do that. But sometimes, it’s not too complicated.
Someone is thinking about sampling a new craft brew. They notice an ad for a local IPA. And the ad tells them that craft brew X is the bomb because it’s triple hopped, crafted in small batches, and has a killer ABV of 11.6. There's a headline to alert you to what the hell the ad's about. There's a killer logo that says THIS IS COOL. Etc. You might not see it in the One Show Annual or Communications Arts Ad Annual or hogging press time at the Cannes show for advertising. This is going to run in a local rag or get some local Pinterest traction. And you already have an interest in craft brews and find ads about them likely to pique your interest. So, what you will find is an ad from someone selling a local craft brew to someone who wants to try something new and commerce ends up serving the two.
I can write witty, clever ads and brand stories and heartfelt appeals. And web sites and blog posts and what have you. I can also cut to the chase and help you move your needle. What do you want? I’ve done both.
So, why should you believe this? Here’s a sampling of what people say about my talent, skills, and abilities — direct lifts from my LinkedIn profile:
“Quite simply, the best writer I have ever had the joy of working for or with.”
“I trust John. I trust him to identify holes in strategy and process. I trust him to exceed creative expectations while delivering projects on time.”
“Very focused on the task and asks extremely thought-provoking questions in order to get at an important insight that can make the difference in the brand communication.”
“Brilliant Creative Director. Excellent mentor. Solid manager. His clear direction made projects seem simple.”
“John is the kind of [creative] guy that agency account managers like to have by their side when they walk into a room full of Brand Managers.”
“John is that rare combination of savvy business thinker and creative genius. His right and left brain are equally developed — giving him the ability to listen to a business problem, ask the right questions, devise a smart strategic approach, and deliver creative solutions with amazing results.”
These testimonials were all freely given. I imagine anyone in the business could find colleagues to say much the same for them. But this is advertising. And I wanted to shout my value and give you a sense of why you might want me to write or develop concepts or tout your brand’s value. Interested? I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org and will pick up at 614-266-4210 unless the line’s busy and someone else has called me first.
©2017 John Hofmeister
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me.