The 10 Most Popular Muse Essays on Creativity From 2018

From epic fails to ad nerds

One of the joys of launching Muse by Clio last year was the chance to publish guest essays from creative people in the business. 

Creativity often takes a backseat to business issues in industry op-eds, so it's been great to hear from working creatives about their favorite art and movies and books and musicians, to see their desks and offices, to hear about their work/life balance, as well as their successes and failures. 

We published 140 guest pieces from July to December. Below is a look back at the 10 that were the most read. 

If you'd like to write for Muse, please shoot me a note. We have six guest essay franchises at present: Musings, Obsessed, Postscript, Work/Life, Workspace and Failing Up. You can learn more about each of those columns here. 

10. Neil French Taught Me Copywriting With a Single Ad

By Mac Schwerin, copywriter and freelance journalist

Mac writes about an old AirAsia print ad by Neil French that has long fascinated him (and gained prime home-decor real estate above his toilet). "It sports no logo, no tagline, and no graphic other than its red and black type. Running 328 words, it doesn't try to persuade the reader of anything so much as it prosecutes its case, methodically leading you from assumption to revelation in the span of a five-paragraph essay. It is witty, authoritative, and a bit rude. It flows like a syllogism and sells without seeming to." Read the full story here.

9. Life Is Beatiful: What to Do When Your Ad Has a Giant Typo

By Adam Wohl, executive creative director and partner at Sterling Rice Group

Adam recounts the sordid tale of having to deal with a glaring typo that made its way into a print ad for a longtime client, just after he started as group creative director for the U.S. branch of a global agency. There is a silver lining to this "Failing Up" story, though. Read the full story here.

8. The Art of Failure at Wieden + Kennedy

By Jimm Lasser, creative director at Wieden + Kennedy New York

Jimm was part of the Wieden + Kennedy 12 class, back in 2006, that created the well-known "Fail Harder" push-pin wall art at W+K's Portland office. He tells the epic tale of the wall's creation, which turns out to be a curious story of invention, resilience, plain grunt work, and most important, the magic of collaboration. Read the full story here.

7. To Those in Advertising: Yes, We Are Curing Cancer Here

By Jordan Doucette, executive creative director at Leo Burnett

A recurring theme of a number of Muse essays last year was the tendency of advertising people to denigrate their own profession—and the cathartic value of realizing anew the power and positivity of the best advertising work. In this moving piece, Jordan Doucette speaks of her father's passing and how it strengthened, rather than weakened, her resolve for working in a profession that is often considered frivolous. Read the full story here.

6. Inside PJ Pereira's Home, Where Creativity Runs Wild

By PJ Pereira, founder and creative chairman of Pereira O'Dell

Our "Workspace" feature has been one of my favorites. In this piece, PJ Pereira gives us a tour of his home in the Bay Area, where he has set up different spaces to work on personal projects and express the creativity for which he has no outlet in his agency life. Read the full story here.

5. Everything I Needed to Know to Succeed in Advertising, I Learned at TGI Fridays

By Nikki Baker, co-executive creative director at Fallon New York

One of the funniest Muse essays of the year had Nikki Baker comically reflecting on lessons she learned as a TGI Fridays server that eventually proved useful as an advertising creative. From organizational chops to handling feedback, those brutal early years as a waitress clearly gave Nikki the emotional and practical armor to deal with anything advertising can throw at her. Read the full story here.

4. Be Nice, but Be Difficult: Finding a Balance as a Creative Person

By Paul Caiozzo, founder and chief creative officer of Interesting Development

In advertising, being a "nice" person is often the ultimate compliment. But in this thoughtful essay, Paul Caiozzo argues that you have to be difficult as well—not in a destructive or disrespectful way, but in a way that improves the work, the strategy, the process, everything that leads to breakthrough advertising. Read the full story here.

3. 5 Modern Advertising Lessons From a Guy Who Died in 1969

By Tristan Graham, creative director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners

While Mac Schwerin weighed the merits of Neil French, Tristan Graham went even further back with his tribute to Howard Gossage—and how the 1960s adman's approach to advertising holds lessons for doing great work 50 years later. One of the most of insightful and well illustrated essays we published last year. Read the full story here.

2. In Search of Ad Nerds

By Anselmo Ramos, co-founder and chief creative officer of GUT

If you're not obsessed with creative advertising, to the point of being a self-described ad nerd, then what's the point? With his inimitable energy and style, Anselmo Ramos talks about the dying breed of ad nerds—the true believers who understand the power of creativity to drive business in an increasingly cynical world. Read the full story here.

1. The Death of the Death of Advertising

By Paul Caiozzo, founder and chief creative officer of Interesting Development

It's fitting that this Paul Caiozzo piece was the most read Muse essay of 2018. It's a manifesto about celebrating creativity and how advertising isn't dying but evolving—and how opportunities and paths that are opening up for the industry's most energized and resourceful problem solvers. It's the kind of perspective we can all learn from, and one we hope drives the industry throughout 2019. Read the full story here.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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