Self-Conscious Amateurism

Self-Conscious Amateurism

BMW has new television advertising, the first new spots from their new ad agency GSD&M. This article by Bob Garfield snipes it for being “terrible”. Interesting quote:

Self-consciousness is not only a warning sign of amateurs at work, it’s also a very good indicator of nothing much to say.

My first thought was uh-oh, since self-consciousness is totally me. But then I got a bit angry, because his ad review is tinged with a pointed negativism. You could also call it “constructive criticism” because he does make some good points, for example challenging if BMW is now the “company of ideas” as claimed, name three of them. But it’s the tone of the article that gets me; for all the constructive qualities of his critique, Garfield’s own article thinly echoes the very whininess he’s decrying. I should know, because I often whine in the same way. But I don’t try to hide it…perhaps one of the signs of an amateur?

Another paragraph that gets me is where he says the spot is “transparently inspired by the difficulty of getting a campaign sold”, “the frustration of advertising creatives who feel their own genius stifled by craven, clueless clients.” This may be the case, but it demonstrates the opposite of self-consciousness: a lack of awareness of how one’s own experiences can create an interpretation of debatable relevance. His insight is delivered without an explicit point either; is it that the possibility of ad execs whining about their own creative challenges through high-profile advertising is bad? Immoral? Lazy? Maybe all of the above, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly relevant, or even demonstrably true. Even if it’s an ad inspired in part by the ad pitch experience, does that someone devalue the message? There are two messages: “BMW is a Company of Ideas” is the surface message that Garfield says is not being supported. The second message, as I interpret it, is that “BMW believes as you do, in ideas and of possibilities that can be made real.” Every BMW becomes a manifestation of hope. Heck, advertising creatives probably ARE the target market for this ad…how many of them drive BMWs anyway? And for every up-and-coming executive climbing the corporate ladder, the message is just as relevant.

I don’t really know why that article set me off…I guess it was the tonal thing, the narrow interpretation, and an underlying assumption that amateur self-consciousness means “bad”. Evelyn Rodriguez illuminates the latter point in her inspiring post An Internet Fed Mostly by Amateurs is Fascinating.



As I reflect on this, I’m doing some of the things I’m ranting about: not being clear in my point. I just realized that there isn’t one…it’s more of a reaction/opinion. It’s rare that I have strong opinions on anything, so I am looking at this more closely now.

  • I can’t stand passive-aggressiveness. Probably because I used to be that way, and am hyper-sensitive to it now. Followup thought: LEARN TO RELAX :-) I’m not saying this article was passive-aggressive, but certainly I’ve conditioned myself to look more deeply. One recent insight is that for all the ability I have to look deeply at something, I don’t have the discipline/process that makes it effective.

  • I don’t know what is the purpose of Garfield’s column from the editorial perspective (unfortunately, the entire adage site is undergoing maintainance), but it does get people to think. A polarized opinion is far easier to react to than an evenly-balanced one, especially if you’re looking for some kind of response…perhaps this was by design.


p>Ok, I’m feeling better now, if not very exciting :-)