credit where credit is due

Advertising is filled with self-promoting go-getters. Quelle surprise! So it should come as no surprise to anyone that getting credit for great ideas is really important. In advertising you are only as good as your work. He who steals my credit steals my money is the old ad expression.

I have personally seen the most flagrant theft of credit. Some people are too nice/ timid to claim what is rightfully theirs. it’s a shame. These people get taken advantage of.

Whenever an ad is a hit there is a vacuum to be filled. “Who came up with it?” the media asks. and the reality is that ideas can always be traced back to ONE person.

But ad agencies have a great talent to turning this lonely process into a “collaboration” when something is a hit. where the originator’s idea is now reduced to just a “kernel” or “germ” of an idea that was vastly improved by his or her bosses.

i should point out that this has never happened to me. I have always been very aggressive about getting the credit (and PR) that i deserved to get. no more. no less.

One thing i’ve learned about the giving of credit is to be generous with it. it’s amazing how Gollum-like ad people can suddenly be about credit and fame. but the truth is ad fame is not worth very much. but you can’t know that till you find out how worthless it really is.

i remember being at an ad party once and someone introduced me as the creator of a famous campaign that i was associated with but not the originator of. And i have to say i struggled for the breath to deny this. I somehow managed it. to my credit! But it sure was tempting to just smile and say nothing and soak up the praise and attention.

it’s sooo easy and seductive to pretend that you did something great that you didn’t. i found out that that night.

I have seen people get really bitter about not getting credit, so my policy has always been to be happy so long as my name is on what i had a real hand in creating.

If i sense someone thinks they deserve credit on one of my ideas i am very happy to give it. because i know that if i don’t that person — who very well may not have gotten too much credit so far — will bitch about me into eternity if i don’t. who needs that?

And once credit is taken it tends to stay taken. so, potentially, the untruth gets repeated and reprinted until it becomes the truth. hence the importance of claiming credit from the outset.

anyway, this was all inspired by something i heard on the radio today.

It’s about Julian Koenig, writer of “THINK SMALL” and “LEMON” for Volkswagen via DDB. I’m going assume you know what i’m talking about here. advertising history. i’m not a friggin history professor here. Look it up on google!

Well apparently, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the ebullient George Lois – Julian’s onetime creative and business partner – has been taking credit for a lot of Julian’s and others’ work. Or it has been lazily attributed to him. Or…it’s a mess.

Anyway this doc was done by his daughter who works as a radio producer for NPR. The USA’s version of the BBC, basically.

This is why i always give credit. Just in case. You never know. And it’s not worth that much to begin with!

9 responses to “credit where credit is due

  1. Interesting, I was listening to that on NPR last night, but I missed the end of it. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Ciaran McCabe

    Vinny,
    I had an exchange with Dave T. about this a year or so ago. While I admire George Lois, I’m reluctant to subscribe to his deification (to open a can of worms, I believe Helmut Krone had a greater influence on the visual side). As with Krone and Lois, I still return Julian Koenig’s writing every now and again.
    And, directly to your point, taking credit for other peoples work has always been around – back to the midgets again (and no, I’m not calling GL a midget).
    Ciaran

  3. I wouldn’t even know George Lois if he wasn’t in Art and Copy. I sure wasn’t awed by him from that movie. Thank you Vinny for the education as always. That was a nice listen.

  4. i think george lois honestly doesn’t remember what he did and didn’t do at this point. this whole thing feels like THE SUNSHINE BOYS to me. and the only people who really matter – ad geeks like me – already know exactly who did what.

    i want to hear a doc on Fred Papert now! him and julian. a day at the races!

  5. I am from Chicago and have lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota & Missouri, places where hard work and humility are a way of life (talking actions here, not spinelessness or passivity), and a premium is placed on what you DO. When I first moved to NY graciousness seemed was hard to find in other people. Art parties. Production parties. Lawyer parties. Book parties. Rock & Roll parties (not as cool as Chicago btw). People would always ask what I do, and I would lay down fat lines of self-deprecating humor (that basically ripped my own substantial ego of course. sometimes so true it wasn’t a joke “I’m a dishwasher”, etc.), to silent audiences of uncomprehending acquaintances. My new friends consistently reacted the same way, confiding in me over drinks that I didn’t need to be so hard on myself, that I would never make it without more confidence & self-promotion, misunderstanding that I was actually sharing my joy.

    Over the years I have found the gracious ones. Even here. They gravitate towards each other and work together. They make fun of themselves and each other. The pass each other’s names around when there is work, always pointing to the great job someone did on a project that was hard and couldn’t have been done without them. They are bad-ass & hard working & I believe, in your words, they are pros.

  6. yeah voroan, i used to live in NYC for years when i first came here. the great thing about NYC is that everyone there is running from something. so you can always find your tribe in NYC. i have always been dead proud about working in advertising. it’s my life. i only get one. i love advertising. deal with it!

  7. Vinny
    You what they say on this side of the pond “Failure is an orphan, while success has many fathers”

  8. oh yes david. very familiar with that phenomenon! i’ve had people i never even met try to take credit for things i’ve done. damn

  9. Look around Lois did always give credit to Koenig

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