Respect The Craft, Respect The Craftsman

Advertising is often referred to by its makers as a craft. It’s an assessment I’m fully on board with, but it’s one that usually needs a bit of clarification for it to make perfect sense to someone outside the business.

Craftsmen start out as apprentices, they become journeymen and, if it’s in the cards, they eventually become masters of the craft. Some people like Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter & Bogusky master the craft early (he became a creative director at 27). For others it’s a long, strenuous journey to arrive at mastery. Either way, if you’re any good at making ads, you’re part of this unnamed, but still very real, guild of craftsmen. You’re on a journey, constantly learning from the masters and incorporating new things into your practice.

For the moment, let’s compare our work to that of a haberdasher’s. When an expert tailor makes a suit, it’s meant to bring out the best in a man. The new suit flatters but it doesn’t “make the man,” as some have argued. The same is true of advertising. A company’s product or service offering is what it is. No new suit, or updated brand identity, changes that. In other words, you don’t go to a tailor in order to lose 50 pounds, you go to a tailor for a suit that fits, whatever your weight.

To play out the analogy a bit further, there’s an implicit trust developed between a man and his suit maker. The man may express his tastes in a suit and his preferences regarding fit, but ultimately the tailor has to make the suit. In advertising, it’s common for the client to request several rounds of changes based upon all sorts of feedback received in hallway chats and other questionable quarters. If the same client tried to steer his tailor in this fashion–and the tailor, wanting to be paid more than anything else, allowed himself to be so handled–he’d end up looking like a clown.

Great work that ends up moving the needle for a client is always a result of mutual respect and the kind of client/agent relationship that allows for constructive feedback and constant learning on both sides. One of the charter goals here at Bonehook is to do work for our friends and for people we want to be friends with. Partly, that’s to ensure we’re always working for good. And partly, it’s due to the fact that it’s the only way great work is consistently made.

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