Steal This Ad: An Ode to Craft

Advertising is fleeting but design is forever

Ideas and execution. Much like Law & Order, they are two separate but equally important things.

Craft is king and/or queen.

Craft is the human touch, the human soul. It's considered, sweated over, toiled after, redone, then applied.

We love it when we see it and feel it; we wish to work at places, and with clients, who make time and budgets for it.

It hurts when a great (or even good) idea is fumbled in the execution part. And there's nothing sweeter than something crafted to the point that you wanna swipe it (physically and/or conceptually) when nobody's looking.

And now, let us all glance lovingly over at the ambitious designers, most likely leaning forward, wearing headphones, their spaces covered in their own thinking and the inspiration of others.

Designers—product, graphic, UX—are born problem solvers. They create emotional, visceral, human connections. They build brands, instigate smiles and nods.

Sometimes designers and art directors come in one body. I was lucky to partner up with a couple of BOGO dual-threats in my career—shout-out to Cesar Finamori and Micah Walker, to name but two of that special breed of cat that have "it all," bring "it all."

Craft is obsession. Craft is caring.

You/we need design in the house. To make work sing, and to have the chops to build a brand from the name up. I've been known to say that advertising is fleeting and design is forever. There, I just said it again.

Craft has nothing to do with the easy way or the fastest way, and everything to do with the right way. It means being a student and searching backwards and sideways for heroes. Craft can be painful. Craft can be unsexy. It takes talent and resolve.

And maybe, now and then, hitting the refresh button. Get off your computer. Use your hands. Think like an artist, an architect, a sculptor, a sign painter, a person with a pen in their hand. Be a person with a pen in their hand.

I shall posit that most of modern graphic arts is merely a rehash of the pre-computer era of graphic design.

So how do we all get there? First, be at a place that values it, with clients who want it. Invest in a strong design department with a deep bench, both competitive and collaborative. Then, shitcan "the handoff." Applying the design stank shouldn't come last. Make triads at the beginning: writer, art director, designer on each account, on each project, working together, evenly weighted.

And maybe even throw a robot into the mix, now and then.

My agency's "F*cking with A.I. Fridays" social series is a "human said it, machine made it" campaign where we plug in fun things said/overheard in our company and we send it through the A.I. ART DIRECTION 2000 machine. It's fun because A.I. is increasingly interesting. It's fun because we're all supposed to be having fun. And making fun things.

Fun, crafty things.

Which takes me to this: When was the last time someone stole something you made? Well then. Craft something. Put it out there. Then check back in a few days and see if it's still there.

SFX: Law & Order dun-dun sound.

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Tim Roan
Tim Roan is the chief creative officer at McGarrah Jessee and currently peeking from behind a tree to see if someone is stealing something his team made.

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