Copyranter: How to tell if you’re an asshole creative

This past Advertising Week, Gyro executive creative director Kash Sree asked creatives, “Are you an asshole?” But he didn’t mean asshole-asshole, he meant, “asshole” — meaning “good” asshole, meaning creatives who bring “dissent … questions … change” and have an “inability to truly assimilate.”

This post, however, is about “bad” asshole creatives. Creatives who steal ideas from other creatives are definitely assholes. Speaking of which, curious minds would like to know where Sree got the inspiration for his groundbreaking talk. Maybe here? Or here? Nah, it’s probably just a dumb coincidence.

We’ll just let bygones be bygones and get straight to other actions and traits that make creatives complete assholes.

You’re awfully self-important

The incorrect use of hyphens is what bothers me most about this awful 2011 event flyer that was handed out in New York less than a month after Occupy Wall Street started.

You have to be somewhat self-important to effectively do such a stupid job seriously. But really, you’re just helping companies sell shit that people don’t need. No matter that you just created a “touching,” “purposeful” 2:40 oven ad exploiting a 9-year-old Syrian refugee. You’re merely aiding (or not) a Fortune 150 corporation get to $10 billion in sales. Lighten up, content-makers, marketing folk already got “embarrassingly highfalutin” covered.

Conversely, if you no longer can stand the soulless act of creating ads, why did you become a copywriter? Shut up or go dig ditches or write the next “1984.”

You enter scam ads in awards shows

In 2009, a Danish agency named By Far said it put this obvious scam “ambient” sticker ad for Silk Soft “100% recyclable” toilet paper (get it?) “in public restrooms around Copenhagen”—meaning they put one in their agency bathroom and snapped a photo (or Photoshopped it). Assholes.

First off, ad awards shows have become completely irrelevant (yes, even the Effies — many of the case “studies” are fabricated bullshit). Ad creativity should be about one thing: building the client’s business.

Unfortunately, creative careers in our unethical field are still made or broken by awards shows. Therefore, if you double down on the unethicalness by entering fake ads, you’re gonna burn twice as bad in Hotter Hell.

You wear a winter hat inside

“DUDE, WHERE’S MY BRIEF?” (Beardo Hat available via in Reykjavík, Iceland)

It doesn’t matter that it was handmade in Guatemala. Are you homeless? No, you’re just “signaling” to account and strategy and client suits that you’re not just a creative; you’re a creative who’s so goddamn amazing you can fake nonchalantly dress and groom like 1992 Eddie Vedder. (The same goes for those creatives who wear asinine-looking eyeglasses frames.)

You are a man
An educated guess, based on 30 years of contact with all levels of creatives: About 95 percent of male creatives (especially copywriters/creative directors) are total assholes, including myself. The best and nicest creatives I’ve met/worked with have all been women.

This is far from a comprehensive list — that would take several lengthy bound volumes.

More in Marketing

In the marketing world, anime is following in the footsteps of gaming

As marketers look to take advantage of anime’s entry into the zeitgeist, they might be wise to observe the parallels between the evolution of anime as a marketing channel and the ways brands have learned to better leverage gaming in recent years. 

With the introduction of video ads and e-commerce, Roblox looks to attain platform status

Roblox is expanding into more areas than just ads in 2024. Much like platforms such as Amazon and Facebook have transcended their origins to evolve from their origins as online marketplaces and social media channels, Roblox is in the midst of a transformation into a platform for all elements of users’ virtual lives.