Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Mad Men Lose Their Marbles," Say 4 out of 5 Doctors!

In the world of advertising, agencies will have the creative department structured into teams of two who then report to a higher office. These teams are composed of an Art Director, in charge of the graphics and a Copywriter, responsible for coming up with the print and arrangement of the advertisement. After the creation of an ad, these teams will then have their work reviewed by the Creative Director who decides whether or not it is a viable direction for a campaign to move forward with and present to the client.

A campaign that is liked by the client and is considered successful can have great repercussions for all parties involved. The Art Director and Copywriter are seen having a successful campaign.  The Creative Director shows his management and his ability to pick out a good campaign.  The agency as a whole gains reputation and respect.  In addition, an agency can use their past work to attract new clients.

Because a successful campaign can be so lucrative, often agencies and the creatives are eager to claim responsibility and have their hard worked recognized. Most times, however, the agency reaps the recognition reward, while the Art Director, Copywriter, and Creative Director are just internally recognized.  In this case, the agency has more of the marbles than the three who worked on the campaign.

The author writes, "If the Democrats really want to get moral psychology working for them, I suggest that they focus less on distributive fairness — which is about whether everyone got what they deserved — and more on procedural fairness—which is about whether honest, open and impartial procedures were used to decide who got what."  In the ad agency example, it seems like the normal for this sort of hierarchy of recognition to happen.  In any office, the manager is going to get more positive recognition from the top than those doing the footwork.  

Despite the fact that proper recognition of ideas can be so valuable, team cohesion among the creatives is of the utmost importance. Marbles must be shared at this level.  It is important for both the Art Director and the Copywriter to feel invested in the campaign that they're working on. Therefore, the manager has to share some of his marbles with the pair.

The nature of the creative process is such that ideas can strike at anytime, whether in the office or not, which means that the team may not be together. If one member of the team came up with a novel idea while he developed on his own, he may refrain from presenting the wholly formed idea to the other member but instead guide the direction of the conversation towards his idea, ensuring that the other member will also feel responsible and involved with the work.  In this way, one team member has pulled his rope and is coaxing the other to pull his.  He wants them to reap the marbles, without making it seem like it was his idea to get them in the first place.


  1. I see the point you are trying to make, but I think it is unrealistic. Why would the manager feel obligated to share his marbles? Also, one member could try to coax the other member of team to pull his side of the rope, but what incentive would they have to do that? Why not report to the manager that it was mostly one person's idea and receive more marbles than your counterpart? You show how the marbles would be shared, but you don't go into how to make everyone share.

    1. You and your partner work on many campaigns together. You are not just randomly thrown together from a massive pool, never to see them again. You are wanting to foster a feeling that the two of you are working together, not that there is an imbalance.

  2. I haven't written any ads, but I have co-authored a fair amount. On the recognition front, the Econ department gets to count when the those co-authored pieces get placed in a top tier journal. So the reward does go that way to some degree. But the creator also gets some recognition, which is represented on their CV. It may be that the rewards to the creator that are material happen with a lag. Word does get around about talent, however, and ultimately the market should recognize it.

    Getting back to co-authoring, it's not been my experience that somebody hides an idea that is a good one (or that they are convinced is a good one even if ultimately it proves otherwise). One of the reasons to co-author is to have a soundboard for the the idea. It is very hard to be both creator and judge of quality. In a partnership each does a bit of both and each can amplify or embellish the early idea of the other. My experience is that each person ends up writing the paper at least three times, so they both get to own it many times over.

    On the other hand, not all partnerships work out that way. The comedy team of Martin and Lewis (Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis) had a horrible breakup. They only reconciled many years later. If there is friction among the team members then the marbles aren't so well shared.

  3. I think it's really interesting how you think team members play a sort of mind game, motivating the other to reap the rewards without letting them know that it was their idea in the first place. This sort of tactic seems like it could be something used in cut throat businesses and organizations where a strong and bold dynamic are needed to succeed.