Good (Creative) is the Enemy of Great (Creative)

by Josh Powers

There’s nothing new about the concept of good work getting in the way of great work. The likes of Jim Collins (author of “Good to Great”), lead Apple designer Jonathon Ive, and other luminaries have noted the challenge of setting the adequate aside in favor of the great. At Richards/Carlberg, we pursue greatness on a daily basis, but we often must fight the temptation to stop when we have something that’s only good.

So why do agencies and clients so often settle for merely good? Well, a good ad is a trap disguised as a warm, fuzzy, and safe feeling. A good ad tricks you into thinking your work is done – in reality, the real work is just beginning.




The Choice is Clear…Let’s Be Great!

Five years ago, Richards/Carlberg created an award-winning campaign for University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL). The campaign tagline is “The Choice is Clear,” and it still lives on today. The creative execution could have easily landed in the world of good. Instead, we worked harder to achieve greatness in the eyes of our client, the university’s alumni, and prospective students.

At the time we began work on UHCL, their student body consisted of older, more focused students. That led us to strategically position UHCL as a school for students who are serious about their future.

Turning Strategy into Creativity

With a strategically sound positioning in hand, it would have been easy to turn the positioning phrase into a solid, yet far from great, billboard headline.

Instead, we pushed on until we had a fun, memorable, buzzworthy series of executions that communicated UHCL is for serious students – without taking itself too seriously.

A headline like this might have been on strategy but falls far short of greatness.

Great Advertising Requires Great Clients

As I said earlier, good feels safe. In fact, it’s understandable why a client might play it safe in an environment where the average CMO is lucky to make it to their third anniversary. Or, why an agency might play it safe to keep within deadline and budget constraints. Sure, good rarely leads to getting fired, but it probably won’t lead to a promotion or exceeding your marketing goals.

Fortunately, our great clients trust us enough to push the boundaries of good in favor of greatness. In the case of UHCL, the leap has paid off with increased enrollment, increased internal pride, newfound public awareness, and an encouraging collection of advertising awards. All because good simply wasn’t good enough.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.