“We don’t want to be known for creating brilliantly crafted failures.”

Don Perkins


In business, one of the difficulties in caring about what you do and how you do it is that solutions are rarely just a, well, solution. Inevitably you desire to craft a brilliant solution. This is particularly true in advertising communications, but communications in general. Sometimes elegant, sometimes brutal, sometimes sleek, sometimes ponderous, but always brilliantly crafted.

That said. Here is an unfortunate truth. While simplicity is always nice, it is more often not practical <or reality>.

Business is complex.


Solutions tend to be complex.


Solutions often need to be brilliantly crafted to summarize the rich and royal hues of that complexity.

And, yes, there are some extremely qualified people, not advertising hacks, who get so caught up in building beautiful solutions that they lose sight of reality and purpose, but they are truly in the minority.

We are truly not in the business of building brilliantly crafted failures, but we are in the business of crafting smart work that works. In fact, the test of intelligent work isn’t the output, but the correct input.

Which leads me to Chatgpt and the wayback machine.

Let’s go back 40ish years ago. I would go to a local market and 80-90% of the advertising communications I saw was crap. Unprincipled, trite, the kind of stuff a good Creative Director or Communications leader would have thrown out in a first round. It was maddening as a classically trained communications person to see the crap that was running. More often than not you would find it was someone’s child, a friend, maybe the neighborhood kid who was good at drawing or writing who was creating the crap (and the businesses thought it was fine). This was that time’s “training from experts is overrated” tier of advertising and communications and, circling back to an earlier thought, their input wasn’t the most intelligent therefore their output could be kinda stupid. It was horrible and there was a lot of it.

Let’s go back 20ish years ago. The internet and smartphones snuck into culture. What happened? Not a whole shitload in terms of quality. In fact, all it really did was highlight the local gems of communicators (that 15%ish) and, to my dismay, harden the hacks. What I mean by that is the hacks did what almost everyone does now, they sought out likeminded hacks and confirmed their beliefs or maybe they simply cherrypicked some good thinking (usually under the guise of simplicity) to buttress up their hackedness. Circling back to an earlier point, the hacks just didn’t google the right questions therefore the answers they got weren’t the most intelligent and therefore their output was kinda stupid.

Let’s go to the present. Chatgpt. I am no futurist, but let me tell you how it is going to fall out. The brilliant crafters will most likely use Chaptgpt as an additional tool for ideation (not creation). The hacks will use it for creation. and within that wretched hollow in between, which has existed as far back as I can see, will reside the conflict of the future of communications. I tend to believe the brilliant crafters will inevitably win mostly because the test of intelligence isn’t the output, but the correct input and brilliant crafters ask great questions which typically lead to great answers.

Which leads me back to brilliantly crafted.

The internet squeezed everything, what I mean by that is the depth and breadth of information available narrowed the margins between brilliantly crafted and just crafted; and crafted and hack. The lines got a bit vaguer and the hacks took advantage of that. And they will do so with Chatgpt. And you know what? You will still go to local markets and see maddeningly stupid trite uninsightful work. And you will still see the classically trained principled crafters of communications creating, for the most part, brilliant communications. Yeah. I will suggest if you believe you are in the brilliant crafters category you are gonna have to work even harder to create the distinction between you and a hack (no matter how frustrating that sounds), but I would be remiss if I didn’t repeat that distinction is found in intelligent input of which principled craftmanship has the market on.

Which leads me to intelligence augmentation.

I have purposefully harped on ‘intelligence isn’t the output, it’s the correct input’ because any output is only as good as what is put into it. This is a universal truth when it comes to humans and minds. Once again going back into the wayback machine, 1962 in fact, Doug Engelbart wrote a piece called “augmenting human intellect” thus beginning the thought process that technology is built to augment people.  The concept was revived not too long ago in “How to become a Centaur.”  The point is technology is not to replace things, but to augment people. Advertising people, as will all people, will either intelligently use it or use it as a dull axe. And maybe that is where I think advertising and communications people really need to spend some time looking in the mirror and assessing what they believe they have to offer. Well trained professionals understand the craft of communications. There will certainly be some better at bringing that craft to life than others, but generally speaking, implementing principles will elevate the communications of any work. The hacks may stumble into principles, but for the most part they work off of ‘feel’ and ‘instincts’, the main characteristics of people making up shit as they go. Once again, they may hit the pinata even though blindfolded, but they ain’t gonna consistently outperform the principled crafter. Is Chatgpt going to help the unprincipled? Maybe. Maybe not. But it can’t solve the largest issue which is “its not what you say, its how you say it” and, well, that is a human’s job. Chatgpt is only as good as what you say to it.

To end.

Here is a truth. We, humans, actually do our own version of machine learning and algorithms in our own heads. And maybe that is why I feel so confident that hacks, or unprincipled amateurs, will not win because Chatgpt is optimized almost like if you can sync the individual machine learning with the Chatgpt machine learning – maybe call it an alliance of mental technology. This may sound weird, but the brilliant will find a healthy symbiotic relationship with Chatgpt while hacks will become parasitic to it (the former is better than the latter). And therein lies a Marshall McLuhan thought. The medium shapes us and if it is shaping something built to be shaped, i.e., “I am aware of my own internal Chatgpt, the more likely good shapes occur”. As a corollary, the stupid become stupider (or their output just seems more off & off) and eventually the non-stupid will notice. Yeah. What I am suggesting is a bit counterintuitive, Chatgpt will make the stupid stupider and the intelligent intellegenter. Ponder.

Written by Bruce