Truth In Advertising

he Lie: We’re not about awards, we’re about results.

The Truth: We’re about both. We desperately want the creative validation that awards give us. And yes, we desperately want to see our work improve your business, too. But there is little or no satisfaction in creating forgettable advertising, whether it’s effective or not.

The Lie: We know what works.

The Truth: We know no more about what makes effective advertising than a songwriter knows about making a hit song. All we know how to do is to listen, go away, find an empty room, shut the door and switch over to the right side of our brains. Communication is not a science, and we are not scientists.

The Lie: We believe wholeheartedly in account planning.

The Truth: We believe in smart people. And we believe that planners are among the most brilliant people in advertising. Do we think great advertising can be created in the absence of a planning department? Absolutely. But we’d be fools not to work alongside people who can find a method in our madness. And bigger fools not to work alongside people who can inspire us.

The Lie: We don’t care about our clients and mock them out of earshot.

The Truth: We care deeply about doing the best advertising in the world and want very badly for our clients to share in the success. There is nothing better than feeling like you’ve created something in tandem with a client you respect, and nothing worse than feeling as though you’ve forced something on the client against his or her will.

The Lie: The important agency people are the ones who give speeches and control the money and write articles like this one.

The Truth: The consumer will never sit through the 4A’s conference or study a holding company’s balance sheet or read my self-important little column in Adweek. The consumer sees the work of copywriters and art directors, the largely anonymous creative people who actually create and shape your message. Who we are as an industry is not the talk we talk, it’s the walk we walk. It’s the work, period. Just as a sport is about the game on the field, advertising is about the ad on the air.

The Lie: The television commercial is dead.

The Truth: The television commercial is alive and well. It’s hanging out on the Internet. It’s tunneling its way into your inbox. It’s filling the big screen at your local theater. It’s in your left front pocket on your fancy new cell phone. The TV commercial is nothing more than words and pictures. It’s sight and sound and motion. It’s ideas. And ideas will never die.

The Lie: Research is the enemy.

The Truth: Fear is the enemy. We are, all of us, on some level, afraid. Creative people are judged by the last ad they did. Four hundred million-dollar accounts are moved overnight without so much as a conversation. The average tenure of a chief marketing officer is 18 months. Not exactly an environment conducive to bravery.

The Lie: Advertising is merely commerce, and can never amount to anything more than that.

The Truth: The average consumer is exposed to more advertising than television programming, music, movies, Web sites, video games and books combined. Advertising is the single most powerful method there is to reach human beings—to move them, to make them laugh, to make them think. At the end of your life, do you want your professional epitaph to read: “He generated increased market share for Triscuits”? Advertising is not simply a catalyst for making people buy. It is a way to talk to, and make your own little mark on, the world.

Jamie Barrett is a partner and creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. He can be reached at