They both do something anyone could do. Or so the story goes.

Many people have looked upon the work of Jackson Pollock with much disdain. Cries of "I could've done that!" and "My six year old could've done that" echo across the gallery. But you didn't and your six year old can't. So regardless of what you think, for once, you're not right. And any work done by Pollock will still sell for $30 million, no matter what you think of it.

The reason a Jackson Pollock sells for so much is because that's what someone is prepared to pay for it and they understand its value. Just like everything, from houses to cars to sex, people only pay what they're prepared to pay and what they see as valuable only matters to them. Your perception of value and worth is meaningless to the purchaser.


When it comes to things like creativity, such as art and advertising, which are traditionally hard to measure and quantify, the lines pointing to value and worth become almost invisible. What difference is there between a logo designed for $50 and a logo designed for $5,000? If the client is happy to pay $50 or $5,000 then surely it boils down to the Jackson Pollock principle of perceived value? A logo's a logo, right? And a watch is just a watch? Yes, but people don't buy watches to tell the time. A $50 watch is just as accurate at telling the time as a $25,000 watch, so why do people buy them?

It's the same with advertising. There's advertising that's cheap and there's advertising that isn't. I'm not saying that the expensive stuff is superior because it often isn't. Harvey Norman spent over $60 million advertising in 2011 and their work isn't good. From a creative point of view, it's really awful.

The reality of the situation is that advertising agencies have been making money the wrong way. Advertising agencies were born from the fact that businesses needed an intermediary between the media and themselves, to negotiate the best rates and spots. For a long time it wasn’t the creative work that was making agencies money, it was the fat, juicy commissions that they were getting from booking media and from hiking up print and production costs. Eventually, when creativity became a factor in choosing one agency over another, it was almost impossible to put a definitive cost to it. Which is most likely where the idea of advertising awards came from.

If Agency X had more awards than Agency Y, then it stands to reason that Agency X are worth more. But that’s not entirely right. The vast majority of advertising awards are developed, curated and judged by the people within the industry itself. In the same manner that the aloof, fine-art cognoscenti look down their noses at the common folk, so do the advertising illuminati. For too long they’ve been trying to justify what they do and the high costs involved but they shouldn’t have had to.

An accountant or a lawyer (even a plumber) knows exactly what they do. And most importantly, so does Joe Public. So they know the value of choosing a good lawyer over a bad one. Isn’t it time that advertising agencies reevaluated their business? We’ll take a look at how this could happen in a future blog.