It's cool to not work.

An idea has been going around that goes something like this:

When you really break it down, anyone can do what we do. Anyone can have a good idea and make an ad. So ad people are really just becoming arbitrators of cool.

So what does this even mean? Dictionary.com helps out a bit.

arbiter: One who has the power to judge or ordain at will: an arbiter of fashion.

So it seems like the idea is that, people buy things that are cool, and that, as "creatives", we've given ourselves the power to decide what is cool, and then, by waving that power over a product, we can influence people to buy it.

So then, maybe what this is saying is that advertisements don't have to, and probably shouldn't, do any work for the client other than make them cool. Maybe ads shouldn't include any product benefits. Maybe ads don't even have to be about the product at all.

This kind of thought works in the favor of creatives in more than a few ways.

Cool is a fleeting sensation. As an example, as of May, 2004, the iPod mini from Apple is considered cool. It has its own momentum of consumer interest which stretches the iPod's appeal beyond its usefulness: all it does is play songs. And the Mini's usefulness is actually less in comparison to the first generation iPod. It stores fewer songs. But the first generation iPod, only a few years old, already seems to be considered very, very uncool.

So this seems like it creates a constant refresh cycle; an agency must constantly work to re-apply "coolness" like a fresh coat of paint.

A counter example might be the ubiquitous Sharpie marker, from Sanford. While Sanford may try to tinker with the basic premise to generate some fleeting consumer interest, its original Sharpie will probably still sell in high volume. It's story never changes: It makes a permanent black line on almost anything. So a Sharpie marker may never be cool, but it's still a great product and one Sanford is glad to make and sell. And Sanford has probably made more money from Sharpie Fine Point Markers than Apple will make from it's current generation of iPod mini. But it's probably not a great account for an agency because it doesn't need that constant re-injection of cool.

So then what, in the end, is more important? Short lived fame, or long lasting repute?


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