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I’d love to punch my old me’s face

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA

“There’s a stupid, horribly nasty little sentence that you will often hear in advertising and marketing circles and which is the most venomous, virulent poison that the industry’s language could produce: “It’s not creative if it doesn’t sell”. You will encounter it in polyester suit circles and amongst armchair admen, usually to defend ads that look like they’ve been created by people who post lots of pictures of cute kittens on Facebook, and that feature apoplectic headlines. In fact, I believe I actually said it once in my formative advertising years and I would like someone to invent time travel only so I can return back then and beat myself up.

“It isn’t creative if it doesn’t sell” speaks volume about its proponent’s one-eyed view of the world, not to mention the kind of shallowness that makes small fish gasp for air. You may argue that, at face value, it makes sense. Yeah, and so do racial stereotypes. It is the kind of bigoted thinking that skims cheerfully over the surface of an issue, while appearing to make a profound statement about it when, in fact, it is just bollocks.

For one thing, in our business, the sale is the ultimate purpose of any activity that we get paid for, from final production and media selection all the way down to the coffee-making that fuels the minds at work. Everything is geared towards the sale: that of the product, service, reputation, whatever, as well as that of the work itself. The “creative” that the saying sniggers about is, therefore, not limited to the creative department, but extends to every nook and cranny of our business.

But there’s more to it than that. “Creative” is the adjective often disparagingly used in our industry to indicate an ad that doesn’t scream the offer like a hysterical street merchant with a penchant for amateur dramatics. In reality, it should simply be the expression of a solution for a business problem. Indeed, and if the creative output is the true result of a collaborative cross-discipline effort, “It” certainly won’t sell unless everyone else has done their job.”

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