Walking through Union Square last night, I passed by the Diesel store and saw their current ad campaign, which literally insulted my intelligence: “Smart critiques. Stupid creates. Be stupid.”
My first thought was, “What’s stupid about creating?” The ability to create requires a lot of intelligence–maybe not to create something like eyeglasses with balloons tied to them (left), and perhaps it doesn’t necessarily require the type of intelligence one gains from formal education. Playing devil’s advocate, I thought, “Maybe they’re talking about when things are created without a lot of heady, intellectual ideas behind them.” But even if that is what is meant, it’s still a false statement. I fully believe that a large part of the creative process comes from a visceral place, but that alone is not enough, and it’s not stupid. Intelligence, whether it is emotional or intellectual or something else, is needed to create just about anything. In my life, I have worked with a good number of designers, directors, actors and writers, and regardless of what I thought or felt about their work, I could never reduce it to “stupid.” There is always something happening behind it.
Moving on, I grew more annoyed by the first statement, “Smart critiques.” If the only critiques made about anything in this world were carefully constructed arguments, then yes, you could say that only “smart” people critique. I don’t want to take the time here to hash out examples of what I consider to be poorly-made criticisms, but for the most part, you don’t need to look very far to find them. And, put up against the rest of the tagline, it seems to say criticism is the opposite of creation, criticism is destructive. This simply isn’t true, and messages like this perpetuate a stereotype of intelligence as snobbery and elitism.
It’s hard to be smart. It’s easy to be stupid. It’s much more difficult to think critically about the world around you and make informed choices than it is to stumble through it without thought about your actions and the actions of others around you. I don’t think people need to be encouragement to be stupid, and I’m a little appalled that any company (especially one that sells $100 jeans for toddlers) would want to brand itself as the mantle of stupid people.
I do hope there is something more behind a campaign which is ultimately sending a message that it’s not cool to be smart, all in the interest of selling clothes. I hope there’s something more that I’m just too stupid to see, but then again, here I am writing a critique of the campaign. I don’t agree with Diesel that this makes me smart, but I’m proud to say that it’s not stupid either.
***See more “stupid” ads at The LAMP’s Ad It Up! Ad Archive, and send us pictures of your ads!