One of my Lessons

Your Ideas Might Suck and This is Why

2 min read

Jeremy Carson is an Associate Creative Director, working in the advertising and design industries for over 15 years.

Does this sound familiar? You’ve sent your book to a few (hundred) agencies and none of them have gotten back to you. And you don’t know why.

Well, maybe your ideas are just bad.

But an up-and-coming creative told me, “By its very nature, advertising is subjective. Some ads resonate for some and others not so much.”

So how can someone say yours isn’t good? What makes "good creative?"



Creative is Objectively Subjective

The secret is, good ideas aren’t based on someone’s specific taste.

Creative isn’t objective nor subjective. It’s a little of both.

Sure, in the old world, you had one spot or one print ad that had to appeal to everyone. And now, we make content for specific audiences, because different content appeals to different people.

Objectively identifying if ideas are subjectively good is what makes somebody a good creative.

But just because different groups have different tastes doesn’t mean that creative is subjective. Good creative is good creative.

The Golden Rule for Good Creative

I’ve got some bad news for you: there are no rules for what makes a good idea.

Ok, some good news: I lied, there’s one thing that makes it good. Will the audience like it?

Okay, I Lied Again

Actually, there are a bunch of rules for what makes a good idea. But I never actually had to write them out. After a while, these things become unspoken qualifications of everything we think up:

  1. Simple - ever had to explain a joke? Same goes for an idea.
  2. Fresh - at least fresh to the audience.
  3. Relevant - both to the brand and the target.
  4. Clever - have an insight that makes people go, “Hmmm.”
  5. Honest - everyone’s good at sniffing out bullshit nowadays.

If you’re missing one of these things...you might be able to squeak by. Missing two? Your idea sucks.

Polishing a Turd (aka The Michael Bay Method)

Lots of people cover up the fact that their idea sucks by using The Michael Bay Method. It’s simple: cover up a bad idea with good production. Or a gimmick.

If a good idea needs a gimmick, then it’s not a good idea.

In advertising, it usually sounds something like this: “...and we’ll put it in the middle of Times Square!” or “When it goes viral…”



Don’t Make Excuses for Your Ideas

Look in your portfolio. Is every idea in there good? Are you proud of them all?

If you’re a good creative, you’re your worst critic.

Look, there are hundreds of reasons why agencies may not respond to your portfolio submissions. There’s timing, hiring freezes, other applicants, and lots of other reasons. So, your ideas may not suck.

But they also might suck. Just don’t let that be the reason you don’t get a call back.

Thanks for reading!

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