Great, Good & Garbage

There’s a fine line between great and garbage.

I see it every day.  And the difference isn’t always right in front of your face.  For example, today I was looking at a portfolio of someone who has been in the advertising business for years.  Over 10 years to be exact.  I was looking at his work and I started to ask myself “how much of this work is really great and how much isn’t?”  Of the 15 campaigns in his online portfolio, I decided that exactly zero were great.  Don’t get me wrong, some were executed really really well. But at the end of the day, were they game-changing ideas?  I had to say no.  Then I asked myself “how many were good and how many were garbage?”  And I realized that good should be garbage.  In fact, good ideas are the most dangerous.  Because you can easily settle for a good idea.  We’ve all said to “wow, this is really good.”  But how often do we say “this is great.”  A creative director I know always said that good is the biggest obstacle to great. It’s not focus groups. It’s not legal requirements. It’s not bad talent.  It’s an idea that’s good enough. That’s because many will stop at good enough. And not aspire to great.

I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s book about Steve Jobs.  In the first 100 pages, he quotes the Apple founder countless times as saying ‘this is the greatest thing ever’ or ‘this is complete crap.’  There was rarely anything in between.  No gap in his decision making that says ‘good.’  Only ‘greatest ever’ or ‘crap.’

I have to respect that kind of courage.  And the courage of every creative team who aspires for great.  And won’t settle for good.

Good luck.  And mind the gap.

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