Are we really willing to look the other way on blatant lack of creativity?

Let’s talk about the Dodge Ram “farmers” spot that ran on the Super Bowl yesterday.  Good spot? Yes.  Wonderful execution? Yes.  Original? No.

The lack of originality doesn’t come from using the Paul Harvey speech, that’s no different than using someone else’s song in the track, it comes from the complete conceptual lift from the above video.

I don’t care if, execution wise, it was mega levels better than the original.  I don’t care if they had the blessing of the liftee, or if it benefits the organization.  That doesn’t make the core idea creative.

I’ve heard some creative directors I respect cutting the creative team and agency some slack because it’s such a good spot.  I agree it’s a good spot.  One of my favorites from the big game.  If I were the client and my agency presented me this concept, I’d like it.  If they told me the concept’s genesis, I’d still probably buy it.

But I’m not a client.  I come from the agency side.  Creativity is what we sell.  Or, so I thought.  I believe it’s dangerous to just passively accept this much lack of creativity no matter how lovely the spot is.

I understand that something doesn’t have to be original to be great.  Take Hendrix’s version of Dylan’s “All along the watch tower.”  Brilliant. But Jimi didn’t create the song.  Dylan did.  If Hendrix never wrote a song and only did other people’s material he’d be nothing more than a great guitar playing cover artist.  Are we now going to glamorize advertising cover artists?

That’s the danger I see from being too accepting of the “creative” team or the agency on this commercial.

The same with the Taco Bell swinging seniors spot.  The only debate there is whether it was a rip off of the Lady Danville “Better Side” video (which was actually much more conceptual, as you’ll see if you watch the entire thing) or the Pepsi “Shady Acres” spot from a few years back?  Take your pick.  Either way.  There’s little originality there.

For the advertising business, an industry that bills itself as an idea business, to quietly accept this lack of originality, on it’s biggest stage, and even applaud it… that, to me, is a very scary precedent.

Let’s put this issue to the ultimate test.  If you were a creative director and you were reviewing a portfolio of a prospective writer or art director, where everything was a lift, would you hire that person?

I rest my case.