Cheap is the enemy of craft

I’ve been thinking more about yesterday’s post regarding our appetite for cheap.

Cheap is the natural enemy of craft. Our flight to cheap has diminished our respect for things that are well-made, considered and handcrafted. Craft has become synonymous with indulgence.

Nowhere is this more true than the advertising industry. The devaluing of craft in our business has been horrifying.

Like pretty much everything else the expectation is that advertising should be cheap – the process of developing it and the process of producing it.  The application of craft is considered a shameful and wasteful indulgence.  Try asking a client to pay for something to be done really well.  I’ll bet you good money that the response will be that if you think it can be done better then you go right ahead…. but I’m not paying for it.  And it’s bloody hard to argue when the client’s dealing with exactly the same thing. Their customers won’t pay more for quality either, because they’ve been trained not to.

This is what happens in a world in which everything can be done cheaper.  Make it in China. Source it from India. Add some palm oil. Use one coat of paint. Fuse it don’t stitch it. Don’t have an account manager.  Use an existing typeface. Find a stock shot.

It’s the only point at which I have genuine sympathy for some of the scam work I see. On the one hand it really frustrates me that we resort to fictional clients to demonstrate what it is that we’re capable of, but on the other hand I see it as often the only way we get to do something properly. It’s the advertising equivalent of tinkering in sheds. It’s where the concours quality work is done.  Scam is becoming the last bastion of craft in our industry.

What we’re witnessing is the destruction of craft, because as a society we’ve come to regard craft as an extravagance.  It’s an unnecessary indulgence because something better than OK is better than it needs to be.

And so I say enough. In five years time I want to be able to look at a house less-full.  Once a year I’m going to have something made.  Something with a real person’s signature all over it.  I think a picture frame to start, made from scratch by a person who’s had training.  I’m going to take their advice on how it should be done and I’m going to pay what they say it’s worth.

I’m going to strike a blow for craft and for advertising.

Cheap is the enemy of craft

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