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Ad It Up! Diesel's Stupid Campaign - The LAMP

Ad It Up! Diesel’s Stupid Campaign

By January 29, 2010 News 3 Comments

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.

–Emily Long

***See more “stupid” ads at The LAMP’s Ad It Up! Ad Archive, and send us pictures of your ads!

  • Solid points Emily and you’re not alone feeling this way – Many people have lashed out against the campaign. I however, think the campaign is less about the word “stupid” and more about the definition associated with it. Everyday people are afraid to go out and do things because they’re afraid to be ridiculed and ultimately called “Stupid.” This campaign is more about pushing the envelope and moving forward without worrying about the consequences.

    Its supporting the concept of forgetting about the fear of failure. Fear of Failure is more of an excuse than a mantra. Be Stupid – Thats a mantra. A mantra telling you to go against the status quo and do something that other people wouldn’t because they fear the criticism.

    You say its hard to be smart but easy to be stupid. I’d disagree. To become smart all you have to do is read lots of books, make “safe” decisions and everyone will think you’re smart. Being called stupid is hard because it means taking a risk that other people wouldn’t. Steve Jobs was considered stupid for believing he could compete with Microsoft. The Wright Brothers were considered stupid for believing they could fly. You can be as smart as you want – But the moment you decide to do something “Stupid” is the moment you set yourself a part from the status quo.

    Great post Emily, Glad I stumbled across it! Got me all riled up…

  • Hi Ross–all great points, and thanks for the comments. I think that what I failed to hit on is the connection between the use of the word “stupid” and the images which go along with it, like a guy with an elephant trunk between his legs, don’t strike me as the kind of thing that results in an airplane or a complete turnaround in the way people think about computers and multimedia. Goodness, I’m pinning all my hopes on working for a non-profit which has been started at one of our economy’s all-time low points, when funding is bone-dry and most people we talk to don’t seem to know what media literacy is or why it’s necessary. So, in that sense, I guess I’m stupid too, but there’s something about the word stupid that is demeaning and doesn’t quite fit with Steve Jobs or the Wright Brothers. I don’t think it’s stupid to go with your gut or follow a dream or try the untried, and I think that if that is the message Diesel wanted to send, there is a better way they could have sent it than by saying, “Be stupid.”

    I agree with you that it’s easy to be “smart” in the sense that you read a ton of books and memorize facts and follow the rules 100% of the time. In the kind of smart I’m talking about, reading books and being safe isn’t enough. That’s not being smart, that’s being a parrot, in my opinion. Again, though, not something I really hit on in the way that I should have.

    Thanks again for writing,
    Emily.

  • Jade

    I initially saw the slogan just text alone and I have been thinking about it all day. I really like the campaign, I think it’s too easy to slam down an idea instead of fuelling it with enthusiasm and allowing it to progress. Anyone can be creative, and there are too many pretentious narrow minds in the art world. I think it sends out a positive and thought provoking message. Although personally I prefer the text alone ad to the image and text ones, perhaps my opinion would have been different if that was what I saw first.

    Of course the world needs equal measures of innovation and reflection and one cannot be without the other. I suppose this ad appeals to the innovators of this world, but maybe not!