Ignore awards to win them
If your biggest goal is to make award-winning advertising content, you’ll never do it.*
Why? For the same reason that you’ll never write a brilliant article by focusing on writing a brilliant article. You’ll end up regurgitating stale ideas in a pretentious way.
But if you want to write an article about, say, how to give good feedback, it might just turn out to be brilliant.
Isn’t it strange how you can’t attain certain things if you run after them directly?
If you think too much about the best decision, you’ll end up making a bad one. If you desperately want to make a beautiful painting, you’ll make it shallow. And if you try too hard to impress someone, you’ll inevitably make yourself look stupid.
Each of these examples commits the same error: your focus moved away from the project itself, and onto what someone will think about it. And because of that, you’re doomed to create hollow, pointless work.
Brilliant articles give you insight into something you didn’t know – a business concept, a cooking technique, a human tendency, etc. In other words, to write a brilliant article, you have to want something else more than brilliance. You have to want insight and clarity.
Likewise, beautiful paintings can be dissected, analyzed, and talked about for the ideas behind them. But a painting that has nothing to say, and only gets all the “beautiful” fundamentals right, is worthless. That’s like a teacher rewarding good grades for an idiotic paper that has no spelling errors.
So, back to advertising. If you focus on how badly you want to win awards, or get written up in certain circles, you’ll miss the whole point of what your work is supposed to do, which is fundamentally to change a human behavior.
Why not focus every ounce of energy, then, on understanding the way humans behave? Study the people around you. Read books on psychology. Watch a lot of TV (as long as it’s active watching, where you’re paying attention to what you’re watching and why it’s popular). Play on the Internet like it’s your job, because it kind of is.
And bring that expertise to every project. Focus on connecting with real people who have real interests, real habits, and real lives. Appeal to them in the most insightful, functional way you possibly can. Know what annoys them, and stay away from it. (If you really agreed to that, would it change how you utilize Facebook, Twitter, and other web tools?)
Create the most human-centered advertising you possibly can. Once you do, you’ll never have to chase awards again. They’ll come after you.
*I’m still in my first year of advertising, and I’ve only won a few local awards so far. This teaching is based on my own studies, observations, and learnings from other fields.