It's not rare that advertising and ego go together. Just look at the recently ended Cannes Ad Festival - amid all that mad twittering about how many times someone has seen Ben Stiller, how hungover a person is, or whether someone has lost their voice from all those drunken conversations at the Gutter Bar - it is a celebration of individual creativity, personal talent & genius, and creative accomplishments in advertising. Yes, in advertising. You are not helping people do something better, you help companies to sell more products. Congratulations.
Yet, it seems incredibly hard to keep this perspective in mind, and to sort of realize that advertising celebrity is, well, not a "real" celebrity - if that still means anything. Just an example: the fact that Jeff Goodby is finally on Twitter even has become a recent news item in an industry trade publication. You can follow him here, if you get over the fact that, as a primer of sheer advertising genius, his name there is Jeff Badby. I am, personally, blown away by the creative twist.
Or, if you want to know Alex Bogusky's globe-trotting whereabouts, just go to the new MDC site. There, in Alex's own words, you can, with a little help of time slider, follow around MD execs. That is, if you really want to know. (I wonder if a paid team of paparazzi is next, just in case we are curious what David Doft ate.) Alex adds that MDC highlights great individual talent, and apparently, high-tech stalking is the best way to convey it.
And exactly there resides the biggest problem of turning people who are successful in advertising into something of a rare and special species (of course, aside of the apparent obnoxiousness of that whole deal). And that problem is: if digital media offer any lesson, it is that creativity, talent, and an accomplishment are not an individual thing. Gone are the days of David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach fame (actually, they are still alive and well in Cannes, not that anyone cares); new things are now are created incrementally, collaboratively, and interactively. The same way that small ideas fare better than big ones online, small contributions combined into something new and interesting that grows over time and through even more contributions, may as well replace a lone "creative genius" of the past.
So what do we have now? Aging "gurus" with their agency machines well oiled to generate "big ideas" vs. hundreds of startups with their small ideas + the digital environment that is exceptionally good in creating a shared value and in continuously introducing new forms of cultural capital. Who has, in the long run, better chances in succeeding?
Of course, if everything else fails, ad execs can always put themselves in an ad.