Guest post: How good does it really have to be?

Incredibly privileged to have a guest writer on my blog. One of the legendary creatives whose landmark campaigns has defined the advertising world for decades: Mr. Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners. I thought it would be interesting for marketers to get Jeff’s perspective, as he has been a fixture at Cannes for many years, including being the President of the overall Cannes in 2002. 

Jeff Goodby's bio:


Jeff grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Harvard, where he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Boston, and his illustrations have been published in TIME, Mother Jones and Harvard Magazine.

He began his advertising career at J. Walter Thompson and was lucky enough to meet the legendary Hal Riney, whom he still thinks of as his mentor, at Ogilvy & Mather. It was with Riney that Goodby learned his reverence for surprise, humor, craft and restraint.

He also met a guy named Rich Silverstein at Ogilvy & Mather. They founded GS&P in 1983. Since then, the two have won just about every advertising award imaginable.

Two commercials he directed were selected to be among the top 30 advertising films of the 1990s by The One Club. In 2006 he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

Jeff lives in Oakland, California, with his family, a dog, a cat, a rabbit, three horses and probably some other things he doesn’t know about.

Jeff's Post:

One of the themes I heard about from several sources this week might be described as “the return of content.” 

It’s not like content has gone anywhere. There’s more of it now than at any time in history, and we’ve created a maw that will only demand greater shovels’ full.  

What people are talking about, I think, is a return to content of a higher quality per unit time. It’s a recognition that, in a now sped-up content war, it’s better to drop bigger and bigger, higher quality bombs during the moments we have with our audiences.  

This was a theme amidst the two most interesting conversations I had this week – with Nick Denton of Gawker, and Jonah Perretti of Buzzfeed. Both said, in effect, that there would be a greater and greater emphasis on the quality of content as the number of pipes we could push it through leveled off over time.  

Jonah cited the “Short Girl” phenomenon. “We ran a feature about short girl,” he said, “and it was such a hit that we had to keep putting out more and more content around the same theme. Eventually, it was ‘Adventures of Short Girl.’ People loved it. And then it was over.” 

It struck me that this was more or less like network television showrunning at light speed. The show was hatched, episodes ran, themes ran their course, all in a few days. The quality per episode hasn’t had to be all that high.  


How good does our content have to be, to do its job? So far, not all that great. But as time goes on, it will have to be better and better. Because, as Peter Mead quotes David Abbott in his terrific new book: “Crap at the speed of light is still crap.” 

A few questions arise. What is the role of agencies, going forward? Who will run this world? 

I think the winners will be anyone who rises above the hack level and starts to produce quality, lasting, really fast stuff. It’s like eye-blink Merchant Ivory. These new companies might be agencies, if they’re smart, but they might be more like a new kind of production company, built to have a particular sensitivity to marketers and advertisers. You could argue that content companies like CAA and smart clients like Nike and Frito-Lay are already in this business. But it will get so much more sophisticated over time.  

We are a long way from dedicating ourselves to great quality per unit time, however. Think about it. Will people excitedly enjoy reviews of the Internet content of our era?  Maybe in concept form – “Hey, remember cat videos?  Remember Bubble Boy?”  -- but not in specifics. There will be no amount of nostalgia that will make us revisit reality TV celebrity selfies in the same way we watch, for instance, old media like great Levi’s commercials. People will not fill the Grand Audi auditorium to watch presentations of “Remember when we hashtagged the shit out of that party?” 

Buried in here of course are deeper questions about us all as humans. Will we demand this higher level of quality or just settle for the smattering onslaught of so-so content we love to gobble from the big fire hose? Will we evolve and even change genetically into a race of animals with shorter attention spans and shallower yet faster processing capabilities?  

When I start talking this way, I think I must be nearing the end of Cannes week.  

I hope you all had fun and learned as much as I did.