Top Five Ad Industry Pet Peeves

'I'm Not an Art Director, but ...'

By Published on .

Pet peeves. Precisely defined as a "particular and often continual annoyance." Or to put a finer, more ad-game-specific point on it: things that won't make you change careers per se, but will definitely make you think long and hard about banging your head against the wall.

In virtually any business, pet peeves are natural. And when you amplify that with an industry where science meets art -- where risk and reward tango on an increasingly tenuous dance floor -- it's not surprising that annoyances can abound.

So with all of the dynamics at play between agencies and clients, it would be far too easy to point the finger just at clients. To be fair, every peeve on my list has been proverbially petted both within agencies and between agencies and clients. In short: There is plenty of blame to go around. (And it's worth noting that this list fails to include some of the pet peeves more specific to those on the client side of the fence.)

That said, and without further ado, here is my top five list for your consideration and contemplation. Let the commenting begin.

1) The word "just." As in, "We like the overall concept, JUST change the art direction, copy and media plan." Yes, I know we are in a professional-service business. And yes, I know that we serve at the pleasure of our clients. But this word, "just" -- when used between client and agency and within agencies -- fundamentally undermines, simplifies and devalues the complexities of what we do. Everything we develop and ultimately modify has both intended and unintended consequences; and further, to truly honor the spirit of any desired change requires time and careful consideration. Lesson: There is no such thing as "just." (Note: We don't allow the word "just" within our agency -- and recommend you don't, either.)

2) The concept of a "one-off." From a consumer's perspective, there is no such thing as a "one-off" or an "orphan project." Heading into any initiative with this mentality is shameful -- it will lead to bad thinking, bad work and, almost certainly, a bad result. Lesson: The sum is greater than the parts. And every part matters.

3) The myopic, mythical virtues of being "campaigny." Yes, apparently "campaigny" is a real word -- as I've heard it more than a handful of times over the years. "So, why doesn't the print ad match the website match the social media? Don't they need to be more campaigny?" First and to be clear, we are 100% "pro" integration -- make no mistake about that . But integration and "matching" are not the same thing.

Consumers are smart -- amazingly so. Let's give them credit for that . If they can understand contemporary brands with dynamic logos that change from setting to setting (e.g., MTV ) or even multiple and disparate campaigns for divergent demographic or attitudinal groups (e.g., Geico Insurance), they won't believe your brand is schizophrenic if every execution is not exactly the same thing. Which is good, since the experiences of consuming different media are wildly different things. Lesson: Care more about the power and authenticity of the connection with the target audience within every contact point (yes, within the context of a properly defined brand platform) than how "campaigny" the work will look in your cubicle, office or conference room.

4) The "too smart" argument. "I'm worried that everyone might not get it." Also known as the fountainhead of banality and hometown of awfulness (population: you). Yes, let's be obvious. Dumb it down. Make sure it is universally ignored, devoid of any intellect, really, whatsoever. Sounds great. (And we wonder why so many consumers think so little of advertising and the people who make it.) Again and to be clear, I've heard these words from client and agency folk alike over the years. Lesson: In order to receive respect, you have to give respect. So how about we start respecting consumers and see what happens?

5) "I'm not an art director, but ..." Ahh, a true classic. And yes, you can insert any title into this gem of a phrase. You're right; you're not an art director (or whatever other title). Lesson: Talk to someone who is . And don't tell them your solution -- ask them how to solve your problem (and your concerns, considerations and constraints). Trust me, it will turn out better that way: higher quality, lower cost, and faster. Seriously, how can you go wrong with that ?

Advertising is an amazing business. We help clients discern and crack problems, capitalize on opportunities and boldly explore "what's next." We entertain. Proselytize. Educate. Inspire. Make art. Fuel commerce.

In terms of root causes, these pet peeves suggest a lack of understanding and/or respect for the business of advertising, or consumers, or both. And while I think those things most certainly exist in our industry to some degree, I truly believe that these pet peeves -- and their death by a thousand cuts -- create a much larger impact on us all than we perhaps realize, clouding the true joys of doing great work, both between client and agency and within the agency team.

Words matter. Parlance betrays belief. And little slights add up quickly over time. So let's all -- agency folk and clients alike -- do our part to pay attention to our intentions, choose our sentences wisely and do what we can to create a smarter and safer world for advertising.

Curt Hanke is the co-founder and account director of Shine, a 32-person advertising and interactive agency headquartered in Madison, WI, serving clients such as Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Carver Yachts, Wisconsin Cheese, Kaplan and Winston Fly Rods.
Most Popular
In this article: