Farts in the Wind

Five years ago interactive was still an exotic discipline. One that lacked respect from traditional creatives reared on print, radio and TV. Of course, that’s changing and fast, for even the most entrenched people in advertising know how to follow the money.
Brian Morrissey of Adweek, reminds us that the transition is still underway, particularly when it comes to award show recognition.

The issue, long a point of contention among the digital shops that bring traditional agencies’ concepts to life, blew into the open in Cannes when BBDO took top honors in several categories, including a gold Lion in Cyber, for HBO “Voyeur.” The crux of the issue: The HBO “Voyeur” site was created by Big Spaceship, a small Brooklyn digital shop. The lack of credit given to Big Spaceship caused jury chair Colleen DeCourcy, chief digital officer at TBWA, to mention the forgotten partner when giving the award to BBDO. Still, the snub riled Big Spaceship CEO Michael Lebowitz, who served on the Cannes Cyber jury. He maintains that BBDO did not deserve all the credit for something it didn’t create.
“The era of everything being based on the great idea is over,” he says. “Other things have risen to a common level of importance.” Without interactive experts to bring ideas to life, he adds, the big ideas are like “a fart in the wind.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. The idea will always be king.
    Even in design (ie; the ipod), the idea of it is king, though the design is equally brilliant. But it comes from the idea.
    I’m all for sharing credit where credit is due – but without a great idea, this guy would be making flash banners. You might say an idea without brilliant execution is flat, but the issue comes don to how many brilliant ideas vs. execution people there are. Ideas have always been the rarest, and therefore the highest-valued. Amazing execution, while still special, it a little less rare. Now, he did a great job executing and probably evolving that idea – but still, there are many other production companies out there. It’s like choosing a photographer to shoot your campaign: it’s the idea that is most important, but a great photog is worth the money and will bring something special. Then again, you go in with 3 photog ‘options’ and not 2 ‘idea options.’
    I give it to this guy for speaking his mind, but can’t support his stance.

  2. It’s hard to know how many ideas, or which ideas Big Spaceship brought to the table. Adweek doesn’t know and we don’t know. Only the people who worked on the project know. But I’m inclined to believe Big Spaceship did contribute ideas, not just production. Just as a director or photographer does. I think we all know that a great director brings concepts to life, sometimes in ways that the art director/copywriter team never envisioned.

  3. At the end of the day I want to know who wrote checks to who. I’m pretty sure HBO wrote a check to BBDO. If BBDO wrote a check to Big Spaceship then they are a vendor, plain and simple. Ideas rule period. Forget partnership, cowboy up and go after the big chunk of business if you believe you have game changing ideas.

  4. How come this system works for directors and photographers who help bring television or print campaigns to life but it doesn’t work here? I never hear Spike Jonze or Gondry or Frank Budgen whining that they weren’t in the main line on the credits at an award show even though you know they brought something special to the campaign. Seems like the model for credits with television work applies and works with digital work. Thoughts?

  5. Probably because guys like Jonze and Gondry couldn’t give two sh*ts about advertising award shows.
    The only award that matters to a director is an Oscar.

  6. David Armano, VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass, warns against leaning too heavily on THE BIG IDEA when working through a digital execution.

    “The Big Idea” is still very much alive and well—but it’s less relevant than it’s ever been. Especially big ideas that start with a top down broadcast messages first. This is campaign thinking in it’s finest and does not translate directly in a fragmented 2.0 world. Bud.TV for example was a “big idea” fueled by traditional thinking—what followed was a “big bang” launch, but not the engagement. Marketers are going to need to diversify how we think, which means supporting both big ideas and lots of “big-little ideas” that can thrive in the niches. That’s one of the biggest challenges marketers now face. Thinking in niche—the internet thrives on it.

    When you look at it that way, you realize you have to question everything when it comes to digital marketing. Even something as tried and true as THE BIG IDEA.

  7. A few reality checks:
    1) Cyber-success has a million fathers, exactly like any other success.
    2) In collaborative work, everybody adds or subtracts value in ways that are hard to understand after the fact. Trying to guess which carrot or onion is the hero of the stew is a fool’s errand.
    3) The golden rule applies here: he who has the gold makes the rules. If BBDO won the creative assignment and farmed it out to someone else, BBDO takes home the award.
    4) No matter who’s “right”, fighting over this stuff makes everybody look bad. How about everybody thanking HBO for having the good taste to buy great work and spend the money to do it right?
    5) I’ve got creative awards in storage that I thought were the most important things on Earth when I won them. They weren’t then, and they aren’t now.

  8. I think I agree with Armano, but maybe not with his articulation (or maybe it’s my interpretation of his articulation). Creatives should always strive to develop the best execution—or big idea—for each discipline and medium. A great TV spot rarely translates into a great print ad and never into a great radio spot. Each individual project must receive the best execution/big idea. Professionals hyping integration often claim the need for a big idea that runs across all mediums and disciplines; however, these experts are only revealing their ignorance on integration in contemporary times (hell, it never really worked in past times either). On a related note, the problem with digital is that people can’t decide if it’s a discipline or a medium—and they can’t come to grips with the notion that digital is both and more. And less, even at successful shops labeling themselves as digital. Also, integration will never happen while individual teammates put value judgments on each other (e.g., I’m the BBDO boss, and the rest of you are my vendors).
    I think everything I just typed maybe makes no sense. Sorry.

  9. Listen, just because someone doesn’t take BSS’s side in this dust up doesn’t mean they don’t love and appreciate the complexity, beauty and effectiveness of digital work. Big Spaceship and the like really want to be upset with the numbskull clients and corporations and not BBDO. These clients still believe in huge global networks and trickle down creative originating from a traditional agency. They still drink aged whiskey in corner offices while talking about each other’s
    golf swing oh yeah and big ideas. Until shops like BSS can stand on equal footing in the eyes of clients like HBO then they will have to play second fiddle. In any other industry you don’t get new upstarts pleading with established giants. You get them kicking their ass with younger, quicker ideas and proven results.