Friday, February 8, 2008

The Jiminy Cricket Rule

I don't know if my experience is representative, but at the agencies I worked at in Australia an unspoken rule applied between teams at a creative review: if you can't say something nice, say nothing.

My experience so far in the UK has been the opposite. Admittedly, I haven't been in many multi-team reviews yet, but the rule so far seems to be: if you can think of a flaw in the other team's concept, point it out.

I haven't responded in kind yet, which is odd because I rather like arguing.

In addition to getting drunk on small amounts of money and injuring myself on office furniture, it's one of the few things I'm good at. I've refrained because I think the Jiminy Cricket rule is better, for five reasons.

1) Crticism reflects badly on the critic
No matter how accurate or telling your criticism is, people will always think you're making it so your own work looks better in comparison. And if your concepts are so weak that you need to help them like that, maybe you should be concentrating your efforts elsewhere.

2) Criticising is easy; creation is hard
The Creative Director. The suits. The planners. All 16 people on the client side. Each of these people will be poking and prodding the work. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Critical analysis is essential.

But what makes you think you can spot something all these other people can't?

3) It's a slippery slope
Because it's obviously done with animus, criticism in reviews can lead to a nasty political situation - every team jockeying for position, seeking to undermine the others' etc.

True, teams are inevitably in competition with each other, but there's not much to be gained by being nasty about it (unless your political instincts are better than your creative ones).

4) You get better ideas up when everyone works together
I don't mean generating concepts together. But if another team genuinely comes up with a cracker and you throw your weight behind it, you help forge a culture where the creative stuff gets bought instead of binned.

If you have a level of trust between the teams, you can agree that none of you will undercut the others with crap, "safe" ideas. Then the client has no choice but to buy the good stuff.

5) Just 'cos you can criticise it doesn't mean it's bad
I'm not convinced there's any link between the number of criticisms that can be leveled at a piece and how good it is.

In fact, most of the average ads out there are products of compromise. Nobody could say anything too bad about them so they got made. Of course, nobody loved them either.

Great ads, on the other hand, take risks. And because of that, they're particularly vulnerable to criticism. "What if people just read the headline and turn the page? They'll think Beetles really are lemons!"

But perhaps I'm just being naive. Maybe it's time to batten down the hatches and get the mud out.

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