After some eight years, it dawned on me that I really didn’t fire a particular art director for the reason I had given him. I realized that, way deep down, I had fired him because he used to say, “At the end of the day.” If you have ever been around someone who always said, “At the end of the day,” you know that it is more irritating than “Take it to the next level,” “Going forward” and “Having said that.” Should I lose sleep over it? Probably not.
“At the end of the day” lacks substance. It also lacks something even more important to the business of advertising: sincerity. Roy S. Durstine wrote, “Advertisements are like people. If a man is sincere you can forgive him almost anything.” Come to think of it, that art director’s work didn't come off sincere, either – it always felt like "advertising".
It’s like the Kenneth Cole community manager I recently read about. This writer wanted so desperately to be socially relevant that he posted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at …” I wonder if that guy still has a job. Because if someone is cynical about the product or the business, if someone has an agenda to be funny or post-modern, if someone panders with business-speak to sell an idea, you decrease your chances of finding that singular voice that resonates a little sincerity.
I’m convinced that behind every great campaign there is at least one enthusiastic creative person. She finds it within herself to believe in the product to such a degree that she radiates enthusiasm and it rubs off on her work. Her ideas are like gasoline on the flame of enthusiasm. She insists on her vision; she fights for her belief; and it’s not simply because she came up with a creative solution. She has passion because she’s certain she’s captured a little bit of her original belief so a little bit of sincerity now squeaks out between the words.
It’s definitely like people – all kinds can exude sincerity. If a timid person honestly believes he can do a job and you give him a chance, he will probably do just as well as the aggressive type who bounded into your office. Hal Riney had his sincerity; Cliff Freeman had his own. Sincerity can come through any style.I don’t have a formula for it. But it’s always amazing when really creative work ends up exuding sincerity; and so disappointing when incredibly clever work never quite gets there. I do, however, know that when something possesses it there is nothing in the work, no single element, that draws attention to itself. You may have been told a story but you didn’t realize that you were told one; there were techniques, but it felt technique-less. “At the end of the day” draws attention to itself because those are words, like all affectations, that are more natural coming out of someone else’s mouth. The disappointment is ironic – we're actually more interested in who is talking than the person who is being emulated, which is why we conclude that if the person (or brand) can betray himself like this, he (or it) will most certainly let us down.