Sunday, April 28, 2013

Made Any Good Mistakes Recently?

Love this new campaign for Snickers, from AMV.BBDO in London.

Using Adwords and an alogorithm, it shows 'You're not you when you're hungry' ads to people who type mis-spelled search terms into Google. View the case study here.

And it reminds me that we have a slight obsession with mistakes in adland.

I think 'fail harder' is actually a motto of Wieden & Kennedy. They certainly had the phrase up in their reception, as a rather beautiful artwork made entirely from push-pins.

People in adland love to trot out proverbs like: "If you never make any mistakes, you're not trying hard enough." Or they talk about the need for "rapid iteration", meaning that it's actually helpful to make mistakes because you learn stuff that you can put to good use later.

However, in my experience I've found this kind of talk to be just that - talk.

The reality is that if an agency makes an ad campaign that is a failure, they normally get fired.

If an individual within an agency makes a mistake, they normally get fired. 

The people behind last week's Hyundai 'garage suicide' ad will quite possibly get fired.

And everyone in the pubs and in the ad blog comments will say that they're totally in favour of people pushing the boundaries, but just not in this particular case - in this case the creators made a serious error of judgement, and the ad should never have been made. But when other cases come around, guess what, they too will be exceptions to the rule that it's okay to fail. I've never seen anyone in advertising point approvingly to a failure.

Well, I'm calling bullshit on this whole "it's okay to fail" thing. Clearly it isn't.

The Hyundai suicide ad should never have been made, because it's not acceptable to use that subject matter to sell a product. By way of contrast, 'Dumb Ways To Die' featured multiple people killing themselves with unbelievable gruesomeness, albeit accidentally, but it felt fully justified because the subject was transport safety, and the treatment was cartoony. 

The Hyundai ad has suffered worldwide criticism. Dumb Ways To Die has earned worldwide praise.

The reality is that there is very little margin for error in this business. That is why most clients and agencies make work that is safe.

And yet making work that pushes the boundaries - successfully - remains the only game in town.


Anonymous said...

ew learn by success not failure. It's not ok to fail

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the whole 'fail' thing is a lovely, lofty notion that's fun to read in fancy 'agency culture' manuals.

But funny how failing is never an option when you have a quick turnaround job from a client who has the shits with your agency.

Anonymous said...

Dan Wieden said about his employees "you're no use to me unless you've failed miserably three times'.

It's quite obvious that failure isn't accepted in our industry, but like all ideologies, it's a matter of stating how you believe the world should be. The difference between Dan Wieden and everybody else is that he puts his money where his mouth is.
Making mistakes is human, so instead of firing people and agencies at the first opportunity to cover one's own back, perhaps more of us should grow some balls and take a stand against this practice and focus on what we learn from these mistakes.

Jason L said...

It was Beckett who wrote "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."... and surely "better" is the point.

We should swing for the fences and strive to make great ads. But sometimes we fail, and thats ok. Keep going. If we fear failure, we end up being mediocre.

You can't dismiss the concept of failure by pointing out that there is good and bad advertising. Abolishing the fear of failure is not about agencies selling random work that may or may not be a good idea, its about encouraging creative teams to keep pushing and not to get scared (the W+K wall is inside the agency, facing staff, not clients...)

The Hyundai spot was never going to be awesome. It was a cheap gag from start to finish. The only failure was that it ever got made.

Dom said...

I agree failure is not a great career move for anyone.

As for pushing the boundaries, I'm all for it - so long as it's early in the creative process. You want people pushing boundaries when they're just talking about ideas.

What's important is having a good filter in place so the great out-there ideas get made and the Hyundai suicide ones don't.

Urban dictionary said...

i am loving this new campaign.. brilliant mind behind this idea.