Some of you may not find the above trio quite as stunning as I do. The judging of creativity can ultimately only be subjective. However, there is a consensus of taste at any given moment in history: flares or straight, serif or sans-, guitars or synthesizers, mini- or full-length, Rubenesque women or waifs. Along with that taste consensus rides a whole series of cultural assumptions. So it is with advertising. Rightly or not, the taste consensus is set not by the general public, no matter how many focus groups sit in on spotted vs. striped ties, but by the creative directors and other jurors at our leading awards shows. There is a debate simmering currently about just what is regarded as the best work at these shows; what is awarded. Some CDs are uncomfortable with the prevalence of small-budget, big-shock, "edgy" (the adjective should be banned) work for brands we will never hear of again. Others argue that it should only be about the idea, pure and simple. It's a similar argument to the one that Ogilvy's Neil French was supposed to be having with the Cannes Festival over whether or not it should crack down on scam ads.
There is no unequivocal answer to these questions. But, advertising does itself a disservice as a profession - and it is a business, lest we forget - if it does not take into account, at least subliminally, the degree of difficulty involved in the creation of the work. It's why it was a shame that the funny-as-hell Fox Sports station idents won out over the wonderful John West Salmon "Bear" commercial for the Cannes Grand Prix last year. When did you last see a great ad for a tin of salmon?
This is not an argument in favor of positive discrimination, but rather one against reverse discrimination. Something isn't less good because it is either created for a big multinational client (or for that matter, by a big multinational agency). And, by logical extension, there is absolutely no reason why such work should be bad.
That's why this month's cover star, Mother, from London, is probably the world's hottest agency right now. Although just five years old, the agency has created first-rate work for the likes of Coca-Cola, Unilever, Campbell and Mars. All from chaotic premises in East London, and with a no-"suits" structure. It's also why we take a look at once-bad advertisers that have suddenly turned good (p. 32).
When all is said and done, there are so many excuses, but in the end, it's all about the work. And the work doesn't lie.
Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of Ad Age Global and Creativity