Are You Making Ads While Rome Burns?

Too few ad men speak truth to power. Or truth to the entrenched, as the case may be.

Gareth Kay, Chief Strategy Officer and Associate Partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners used the 50th anniversary celebration of “brave advertising” in Cannes this year to share some true pearls of wisdom from the stage.


We’re excellent at the wrong type of innovation. We relentlessly pursue and celebrate the latest ‘new’ way of doing what we have done before. And it is rarely about imaginatively finding new types of things to do with our creativity and to explore new ways to get paid for them.

…Clients are asking us to grow their business and solve big, tough, complicated commercial problems. Yet our default behavior and niche obsessions with the ad makes the link between the commercial imperative and the creative solution far too weak and indirect.

We have to become more obsessed by the outcome we create rather than the output we make.

I’ve been a fan of Kay’s for some time, but now I am a huge fan.

Personally, I left my “niche obsession with the ad” on the beach in April 2006. That’s when all the DIY learning and doing I’d been pursuing in digital realms came to a professional head, and I went from being a Senior Copywriter who made ads for placement in traditional media channels, to being an Editor of big lifestyle brands’ consumer websites.

I continue to make ads, but it’s a small part of a larger whole now. I don’t identify as an ad maker any longer, although I made continue to make ads. Some call what I do “brand journalism.” The funny thing about that is all paid journalism is brand journalism. As a journalist, you can write for a media company, or you can write for a brand invested in making its own media. I do both, gladly.

Also, I have to say coming from a marketing services agency background versus a general market ad shop background has turned out to be a wonderful gift. When you’re the underdog used to fighting for scraps from the client’s table, you learn to provide solutions of all kinds. It’s a different mindset from an ad maker’s and one that now helps me stay on course as a provider of marketing solutions.

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