That’s What The Money’s For

Writer and Cultural Curator, Maria Popova, writing on Design Observer argues eloquently against our industry’s time-honored practice of insider back-slapping.

Unfortunately, much of the creative industry — design and advertising in particular, but also photography, literature, the art world — has become an industry of ego. And its currency is industry awards.
Awards are awful. Awards breed ego, create false meritocracies and ultimately stymie innovation at every step of the award-granting process — from entry to evaluation to owning the win.

Naturally, this topic comes up, and up again. Why? Because we all want to be recognized for our contributions, and nothing’s going to change that. We also want to be rewarded justly for our contributions, and given that our contributions sometime help build multi-million and multi-billion dollar brands, we want the rewards to reflect this business reality.
Interestingly, in the last two episodes of Mad Men, industry awards, the need for recognition and the team’s frayed nerves over it all, are central to the scripts. Roger complains they don’t give awards for what he (an account guy) does. Don, in a moment of complete vanity, wonders if he looks good on his way to the podium to pick up his hardware. Jane, of course, satisfies both of their emotional needs.
Don and Peggy also argue over the Clio the agency just won, and how Don never recognizes Peggy’s contributions to the work, the Clio-winning work, in particular. Don smartly says that’s what the money’s for.
Which reminds me of Sally Hogshead’s claim in her book, Radical Careering, that a creative working in advertising can either become rich, famous, or go home at five o’clock. She says they’re all valid paths, but only the luckiest among us will be able to realize two of the three in our careers. No one gets to enjoy all three.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.