Let me start with another question – have you ever noticed how prevalent the culture of criticising the work of peers is within the advertising industry?

I bet you have, although you might not have thought much of it. But think about it now. Hop onto Twitter, watch an ad on YouTube, even pick up a trade paper – and it won’t be long before you see someone from the industry slagging off the work of someone else from the industry. Sadly, it’s usually the creative types committing the crime.

This criticising-and-getting-criticised business is part and parcel of the job – creatives all love putting their name against a piece of work that might win an award, so they should similarly be named when their work is being mocked. But when this criticism is being played out, there’s something that we all seem to conveniently forget – the client has, and always will have, the final say.

It’s their money after all, and it’s their piece of content when all’s said and done. A sad but necessary industry truth is that roughly 1% of work that sees the light of day turns out exactly how the creatives envisaged it.

There’s got to be give and take, and there’s got to be a business sense above all else. Creatives are rightly relatively powerless when it comes to making important business decisions about the output – if they weren’t, the world’s media would probably be clogged up with ads full of metaphors, puns and glorious design that spectacularly failed to sell products.

Sometimes this business interference can go too far, however. As we all well know, it can often be a case of too many cooks spoiling a broth that was designed by committee in the first place – so that the work stands no chance. And even if this doesn’t happen, a piece of creative will pass through more hoops than anyone outside of the industry could come close to imagining.

Most creatives will have at least one experience of receiving a brief so exciting and open that they immediately start dreaming of the awards that will come their way when the brief is spectacularly fulfilled – only to months later have their name against something safe, anticlimactic, and disappointing.

Which brings me to the other thing that we seem to conveniently forget when the knives are out: if a safe, anticlimactic, disappointing ad manages to sell the product it’s shouting about, it’s doing its job – no matter how much it makes you want to gouge your eyes out. As much as the majority of creatives care about producing a great piece of ‘art’ that’ll infest the zeitgeist and stand the test of time, that’s (almost always) not of the utmost importance.

This isn’t all to say that dodgy output should necessarily escape persecution – and if it’s lazy work with bad results and only a normal amount of client interference, it deserves to be criticised.

But in most cases, before we flash our tongues, it might not hurt to take a second to remember two things. More often than not, the ad we so dislike is probably nothing like the ad that the creatives, suits, planners, or even client wanted to put out – and if it sells, it works, so any criticism of it is rather flawed.