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July 29, 2008
Advertising is Subjective?
I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that advertising is subjective. It’s like a built-in excuse for the work we do, like the aunt who whispers that little Billy’s ditsy behavior is understandable. “He’s a little hollow between the ears, you see.”
Well, here’s my inconvenient truth. Advertising is a lot more objective than you think. We’re in the business, folks. You have the professional eye. So on your next trip to the bathroom today, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Do I really want my area of expertise to be viewed subjectively?” Chances are, you have the talent and tools to bring objectivity to everything you do, from the ads you create to the strategies you formulate to the numbers you crunch.
Where did “Advertising is subjective” come from anyway? Merriam-Webster defines subjective as “peculiar to a particular individual. Modified or affected by personal views, experience or background.” Apply subjective to advertising and you get the writer in love with a certain word, the designer who’s adamant about her type treatment or the client who demands a bigger logo. All mean well. They just lack validity in their opinions.
We’re all entitled to our personal opinions and it doesn’t matter if they’re reasonable or backed by anything. They’re yours and yours alone. Professional opinions, on the other hand, need support and evidence to drive out subjectivity and get to objectivity.
Where can you find objectivity in advertising? The first and last place I’d look is the creative brief. Honed from the agency input document, the creative brief, among other things, spells out exactly what to judge the creative work by. With a good brief (hard to find these days), you can objectively view advertising and decide if it’s good or not.
Okay, I hear you moaning and groaning. You’ve got bad input, a bad brief or a client with bad taste. Don’t throw a pity party and jump on the advertising is subjective bandwagon. Get busy on the objectivity front. Be a friend to research. Befriend industry experts. Get close to the client’s customers. Define what you’re good at and get really good at it. 
See how much more believable you can be. Remember, it’s not your personal view or experience—all subjective. What’s so compelling is the strength of your argument, which is imbued with objectivity.
So the next time you hear someone lamenting that advertising is subjective, remember this. Advertising is much more objective. We’re ad professionals, vanguards of objectivity, and it’s high time we stopped selling ourselves short.

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Mike Ogden is a digital/senior writer based in Kansas City. Ad agency stops have enabled him to create for major brands like American Century, Capital One, Sprint, and USAA. Seasoned and sharp with a touch of gray, Ogden, aka Og, is known for creating and championing ideas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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