Plea for creativity uncovers the empty heart of advertising

In case you need a reminder why you should never work with ad agencies, here’s one from Adrants, a blog that showcases work from the advertising industry: New Ideas Are Few and far Between in the Advertising Business.

It’s a plea for more creativity and originality in ads.

And that’s fine. But the reasons for being more “creative” — here and almost anywhere you come across similar rants — are telling: They aren’t about getting better results for your clients. No, you should be more creative for almost every other reason than that one …

So strive for brilliance. Strive for beauty. Strive for something you’ve never seen before. Because you know what? If you do and you succeed, you’ll be able to call the work your own and be proud of it. And you can feel good your original creation will find a place in the industry’s pantheon of creativity. And you won’t have angry bloggers calling you a copycat.

The greatest fundraiser in history will almost surely not show up in some “pantheon of creativity.” The most effective fundraiser would probably have angry bloggers all over them saying copycat and worse — if there were any bloggers paying attention. But that great fundraiser will change the world more than all the creative geniuses in the ad industry put together.

The best fundraisers don’t get bored with what works. The only stuff they are allergic to is stuff that doesn’t work.

Good fundraising takes a lot of creativity and originality. But those things are just tools. Another tool is stealing smart (much as Shakespeare did). And maybe the best tool of all is doing the same thing with only minor variations for years and years — because it works.

Be aware of the culture of the ad industry. It’s not about doing what works. It’s about doing what excites them. And winning awards, which are also about what’s cool rather than what works.

I can prove it: Check out these Stupid Nonprofit Ads, almost all of them the work of ad agencies.


Comments

2 responses to “Plea for creativity uncovers the empty heart of advertising”

  1. RA Nolan Avatar

    A blind call to “never work with ad agencies” is a knee jerk reaction and an ill-informed approach to creating inspirational and intelligent ads for nonprofits.
    I don’t think advertising agencies are always right or the best people to help create effective campaigns. But “just stick with what works and only make minor variations” is far from visionary. In fact, it’s insulting.

  2. RA Nolan Avatar

    A blind call to “never work with ad agencies” is a knee jerk reaction and an ill-informed approach to creating inspirational and intelligent ads for nonprofits.
    I don’t think advertising agencies are always right or the best people to help create effective campaigns. But “just stick with what works and only make minor variations” is far from visionary. In fact, it’s insulting.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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