Tossing Sacred Cows On The Open Fire

Mark Wnek, chairman-chief creative officer of Lowe/New York let one rip on AdAge yesterday. As a result, I think more highly of him today.

Brilliant execution is largely what wins creative awards; the depth, breadth and scale of the idea are secondary at most. Great ideas not so brilliantly executed win nothing, while brilliant one-off executions with no connection to any kind of business results can and do win Grand Prix.
…executional awards are far, far and away the major criteria used by an agency CEO seeking a creative director. It’s like seeking a head of military intelligence from among people highly decorated in hand-to-hand combat.
…Meanwhile, creative people seem happy to let this state of affairs continue by dedicating their careers to executional awards, like jesters at the king’s feet chasing after scraps.

Bravo! I love it when a man in power speaks truth to power. Love it, love it, love it.
Wnek is careful to say that the idea person and the executional person are equals. I understand why he says that, but since I’m not in his position, I don’t mind saying no, that’s not true. Executional skills mean NOTHING without a powerful idea. Ideas are the fuel, the team of horses, while execution is the buggy.
The Denver Egotist also ran a diatribe yesterday against the way award shows currently churn out the same old shit.
Let’s have a look at one suggestion to fix that:

I also think that, where possible, effectiveness MUST be a criteria of any advertising award. This is not art or graphic design, it’s advertising. It has a job to do. It has to sell or promote, and there needs to be a reaction. Whether it’s measured through word of mouth or surveys or focus groups, the work must pass an effectiveness test before it can advance to the next round.

Taken together, the new formula goes like this: Brilliant ideas that move the needle for the client are the only things worth awarding. Anything less is self-absorption and an embarrassment to our industry.
On a personal note, earlier this week I applied to be a Creative Director at Publicis In the West. The job announcement specifically calls for a fancy agency pedigree and a shopping cart full of awards. My letter of inquiry states up front that I do not have those things, which begs the question why I would bother applying. I applied because I like to challenge convention. Maybe that’s not what Publicis wants. While I’m acutely aware of that, I’m also conscious of what I do bring to the table–the proven ability to lead a team of game changers.

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 other tack, which I think ultimately makes more sense, is Dave Trott’s notion that awards shows abandon the pretense that they’re awarding anything other than execution and just admit they’re rewarding the funniest, most poignant, most daring 30 and 60 second films or posters and be done with it.
    And the reason I think that makes more sense is because it’s really hard to explain why an ad is strategically sound and just as hard to judge.

  2. Cannes 2009 was a landmark year for Indian advertising. The Times of India spot produced by Good Morning was the first TV commercial from India to win a Gold Lion. In fact make that 2 Gold Lions which called for a double celebration.
    You might want to check out their ad here (or search on you tube dot com for ‘Good Morning Films’).
    To see more films of Good Morning go through their website (good morning films dot com).