Advertising Week is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year in New York, bringing together creatives, thought leaders and ad executives to talk about the state of the ad industry.
Monday’s panel, “My Best Worst Idea,” gathered together some of those creatives to compare great ideas, terrible ideas, and great ideas that started off great and then became huge mistakes.
Ad legend George Lois joined Havas Worldwide’s Darren Moran and Snaps’ Vivian Rosenthal, moderated by JWT’s Matt MacDonald for the panel, sharing their best lessons learned.
Lois was the standout, and after presenting some of his famous ad spots from the 1960s, said he couldn’t agree with the idea of a creative learning from one’s mistakes.
“A creative can never learn anything from his mistakes. The first time you learn from a mistake, you turn into a piece of shit. … The business world says you have to do that — you make a mistake one day, you learn from it the next day. Not a creative. You can be cautious. Or you can be creative. But there’s no such thing as a cautious creative. Don’t give your failures a second thought.”
The other panelists respectfully disagreed.
Havas Worldwide New York’s CCO, Darren Moran, shared a story about an ad he helped create for MTV about AIDS prevention: “It got letters. Angry letters. From teenagers. For teens to write angry letters to MTV, you really have to have done something wrong. And what I had done wrong was, I got so caught up in my desire to shock people into action that I was blind to whether it was even relatable. They didn’t get it,” he said. “It was a good idea, I think, but I had forgotten the audience.”
That experience led to the creation of a more relatable spot:
Vivian Rosenthal, founder and CEO of Snaps, shared her story of founding a previous company with a man with whom she was in a relationship. When the relationship ended, so did her association with the company the pair had started. Rosenthal said it also was a transformative experience that led to her next great idea.
According to Rosenthal, “It was absolutely, incredibly empowering to realize that out of a bad decision came something quite good. It was a sense of not having to rely on someone. That was the ounce of confidence that I felt all of sudden. And I said, OK, I’m going to do this again, but in a slightly different way. I’m going to start a company by myself, with no partners, certainly not with a boyfriend. And that’s what I did. And it was exciting to see how such a bad idea became, in the end, a good idea for growing as an individual.”
JWT’s CCO in New York, Matt MacDonald, offered his experience of creating a live TV broadcast for Macy’s. After reviewing the final product much later, he realized it wasn’t nearly as awful as he had remembered. “I had seen only the flaws of other people screwing up my idea. And that was really illuminating, and harder to deal with than the fact that this thing got screwed up.”
The panel then shared some guests’ stories, including Jeff Goodby’s below: