Does Creativity Matter? It Has To.

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Welcome to AdCritic. Thank you for your patience while we were re-designing the site and building in its backend.

So, as is customary in first columns like this, here's the mission statement: to bring to you and analyze the best new work from around the globe in the most user-friendly and attractively-designed format. Simple, huh? So, what do I write for the other 600 words?

First, here's who we are. AdCritic has been re-launched by the Ad Age Group, and will serve as the sister website to Creativity magazine. The site will be edited by Jim Hanas, the editor of The Creativity E-mail. In addition to Jim, regular opinion and analysis will also be provided by Teressa Iezzi, the new editor of Creativity (formerly editor of Ad Age Global and 'Boards) and myself (editorial director of Creativity, Ad Age Global and AdCritic, and former editor of the UK magazine Campaign).

We will also be opening the site up to you for your views too, both through your contributions to keeping the AdCritic Top 20 a lively vehicle for displaying the very best in advertising, and your own opinions.

There is unquestionably a huge amount of interest in the best new work, but how to judge and define it? When I first started writing about advertising 13 years ago (gulp!), a wise old owl of an editor (thank you Bernard Barnett, now at Y & R Europe) told me: "there's so much bullshit talked about this, but you know it when you see it, you just know it."

As someone who has contributed far too much to this mountain of bullshit, I have to say Bernard was, and remains, right. The enormous efforts of many interested parties -- ad agencies themselves, research companies, media buyers, the purchasing departments of client organizations, and many others -- in attempting to turn advertising into a science are doomed for this reason.

As a consequence, industry "experts" are fond of saying it's impossible to know what will make a great ad in advance. That means there is always going to be an element of risk, and these are supposed to be risk-averse times.

However, the argument that must prevail -- both for advertising to continue to be the killer marketing application we all know it can be, and if we are all to want to stay in and around the industry -- is that it is actually less risky to rely on the instincts of talented people than to ignore them.

That's what AdCritic will hopefully prove over the coming months and years: it's not a gamble using the most creative agencies, directors and post resources, it's a gamble not to.

Somehow, in advertising's recent past, the link between creativity and effectiveness has been lost -- or at least the industry's ability to promote that link convincingly.

There is a genuine challenge to reclaim creativity from its association with wackiness. There's nothing innately wrong with 'wacky' (see the new Nike commercials we feature today for proof) but it has somehow been allowed to develop a stranglehold on taste at awards juries and at the creative department water cooler.

I know that creative directors who sit on awards juries regularly are concerned about this, but are not quite sure what to do about it.

The issue flared again at Cannes. Not with Nike's Film Grand Prix, nor Club 18-30's supposedly controversial print winner (Club 18-30 is a serious vacation company, that happens to market itself honestly, as a purveyor of fun-filled holidays to young adults whose twin interest on their holidays are getting drunk and getting laid -- not necessarily in that order).

It was the Oslo piercing parlor winning the Outdoor Grand Prix for its 'wacky' idea of piercing through the billboard posters with a real object that becomes tricky in this context.

Leaving aside the issue of whether it really was that great an idea anyway, what does it say about advertising, when it needs to be seen as a serious creative industry appealing to embattled boardrooms around the globe, that the Oslo piercing parlor wins the biggest prize in the world this year?

This is a thorny and important subject, but for some reason, many creative directors in particular seem reluctant to debate it in public -- perhaps for fear of backlash on juries? But debate it, we should, and will, at least here.

We hope AdCritic will be a much-needed forum for the entire industry. Let us know what you think.

(Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of Creativity, AdCritic, and Ad Age Global)

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