Who Gets To Determine What’s The Best?

Lewis Lazare reports on an internal email sent out by DDB/Chicago creative chief Paul Tilley:

At the top of the memo, Tilley invoked his mentor and former DDB/Chicago chief creative officer Bob Scarpelli, who jokingly called it “the question to which there is no answer.” That question, as Tilley quickly indicated, is: “Is this your best work?”
Tilley then implored his creatives to “look at the work you’ve done this year, the work you’re about to present this week, the work that’s running on our lobby monitors and ask yourself: ‘Is this your best work?'”
DDB’s top creative also made it clear he isn’t convinced everyone on his creative roster is working at the top of his or her game: “Some of you are doing truly great work — work that makes DDB/Chicago one of the top 10 most awarded creative agencies in the world,” Tilley wrote. “But too many of you are only doing good work. And some of you are doing work that simply isn’t good enough.”

I’d like to pose a bunch of questions here, ’cause I’ve never worked at a place where the creative chief would send out an email like that:


What does it mean to do great work at DDB?
How does an agency like DDB hire people who don’t try to do their best work?
Why would someone not do their best work there? Is it low expectations? Inability to deal with big agency layers? Fear of clients killing ‘edgy’ work’?
Is Paul Tilley the one who determines what is up to DDB standards, and what does he personally consider great work?
If you worked at DDB, how would you respond to an email like that?
I’m serious. I just don’t understand why the big creative kahuna has to tell people to do better work. Because if I worked at DDB/Chicago, they’d be getting my best work every day. Whether it gets sold and produced in that environment, now that’s a different matter altogether.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.