All hail the giggling idiots
A view from Angus Macadam

All hail the giggling idiots

Stop taking yourself and your work so seriously or you'll never find masterpieces in unexpected places.

Anyone having fun? I’m not. I’m working too hard. Thinking too hard. Probably trying too hard. So it stings a bit when something pops up that reminds me there’s fun to be had. In fact, worse, the people having all the fun are the ones we most admire. Same as it ever was.

You might have seen it too. Those two young fellas, Kevin Nguyen (16) and TJ Khayatan (17), who left a pair of glasses in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. If you didn’t catch it, the short story is they left a pair of glasses on the floor of a gallery below a little sign; everyone thought it was art and everything went a bit Duchampy for a while. Some art critics even declared it a modern masterpiece. 

Imagine if you’d done the full art school thing, worked hard and had a piece of work accepted by SFMOMA. Then two giggling idiots come along and put a pair of glasses on the floor next to your work. Suddenly, no-one is looking at your stuff.  Or talks about it. Because everyone (art lovers, the media, the whole world) is talking about the glasses. 

I’ve always been jealous of the giggling idiots, especially in our business. They make it look easy. They’re having the most fun. And if they consistently flout the rules, ignore those around them and continue to do things their way, they will always be the most valued (and well-paid). 

They aren’t trying to do things better than the rest of us, they’re trying to do things differently. Not only is that easier, but there are definitely more giggles in it.

As usual, the most interesting thing that’s going on in our agency right now is something we’ve come up with on our own. Yes, it’s for one of our clients and, yes, it solves a business problem, but that client didn’t actually ask for it. There wasn’t a brief. No two-hour meetings to discuss it. No mandatories. Every decent agency will always have one or two of these on the go. And it’s nearly always the most interesting thing happening in the building.

To do our very best for our clients, sometimes we’ve got to worry a bit less about focusing only on the things they’ve asked for. Just look at that DB Export "Brewtroleum" idea. Those guys are having way more fun than me. Or "McWhopper". Hang on, they’re both from New Zealand. What’s going on over there?

We have a saying here at Mcgarrybowen London: "Don’t show me something good that answers the brief, show me something amazing and we’ll make it the brief." The point being that punters don’t care if you’ve nailed every aspect of the brief. But they will love you for entertaining them. For doing something that’s actually interesting. For making them think.

Juan Cabral? Giggling idiot genius. Imagine the schoolboy-snorting when they first saw the bloke in the gorilla outfit. While everyone was busy trying to do "work that works", they were off doing something else. And look what plopped out the other end. The best spot that year and maybe for a while. Apparently, the client didn’t even want it. Until they saw it.

Let’s be honest, the public don’t even notice most of the stuff we do. But we’re hard to ignore when we get it right; when we lob a curveball. It’s just a shame the best in our business aren’t let off their leash a bit more often. OK, so occasionally we might slip the collar and run into the road and cause a bit of a fuss. But it’s rare. 

When we’re at our best, we’re all giggling idiots. Enjoying what we do. Misbehaving. Being, you know, a bit brave. So let’s make sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Nobody wants that. 

And if there’s anything Kevin and TJ can teach us, it’s don’t put it on the wall, put it on the floor. 

Angus Macadam is executive creative director at Mcgarrybowen London.