moneyI heard someone imply recently that advertising and public relations were all about money, and that the dollar amount a client pulls in due to an ad or campaign is the ultimate definition of whether or not the work created was “great.” I found this depressing, especially since someone who works in the advertising field made the comment. The more I got to thinking about this money-centric mindset, the more I realized that this view is the reason advertising is one of the world’s least trusted professions.

The perspective that “making money” and “great work” are equivalent is not indicative of an understanding of work and money, but of a misunderstanding of people.

If you are of the “money = great work” mindset, you should ask yourself these questions: Is money the only reason your clients go to work every morning? Do all of them count the day a waste if they didn’t see their bottom line climb one rung higher? There may be some who look at the world in that way, but I’d be willing to bet at least some of them get up and go to work because they like what they do and feel their work can be of some significance in the world.

Furthermore, is the ability to buy things the only reason your audience goes to work every day? And are they choosing products based on pure functionality, rabid consumerism or a shopping addiction? No. We need to see our audiences as they truly are – informed, sensitive people who think about their own contribution to our world, and who choose to do business with brands whose beliefs, mission and, most importantly, behavior (this includes advertising), connects with them on an emotional level.

If we see our clients as only wanting to make money and our audiences as undiscerning consumer puppets, we undervalue them as humans and undervalue their contributions to the world. Brands that do not understand their audience, or underestimate them, ultimately fail.

Brands who do understand their audiences, their intelligence and their goodness, strive to create great work. What is great work? It’s work that expresses the conviction and purpose of a brand. It’s a chance to offer beauty, humor, emotion and perhaps a lifting of the spirit. It’s work that allows a brand to meet its audience out in the open, shake hands, maybe wink, and say, “This is how we feel, and we think you do, too.”

chipotleIf you’d like a great example, look at Chipotle’s recent and already lauded ad. This ad is related to Chipotle and their free iOS game, but what both the ad and game speak to are the horrors of factory farming, something Chipotle has taken a stand against. Consumers who agree are rallying around the brand as a result.

Truly great work can be powerful and long lasting. It can turn the tide of a struggling brand or bolster them to legendary status. Great work achieves positive movement on many levels, including brand awareness, trust and respect. The next time you look at a piece of work you’ve created and don’t feel pride, remember this: A generic press release or mediocre print ad can bolster sales for a time, but it will not drive these most important measurements. Love of brand does. Great work propels that love. And you have the chance to do it.