Serving the Burnt Sandwich

March 15, 2015

This is a touching scene from the movie Chef, where Jon Favreau’s character Carl Casper, amidst a professional breakdown takes a moment to teach his son a life lesson.

The son has burnt a Cuban sandwich and is prepared to serve it to their waiting customers. Casper takes the son to the side and explains how his love and passion for cooking has made him the man he is today. He explains why you can’t compromise, why you can’t make exceptions.

It’s interesting because it’s a point of view that is commonly expected from chefs. We expect for chefs to have great pride in their work, a raging passion for their craft, a knowledge of the world that informed them. Watching reality cooking shows we see professional chefs berate their amateur contestants if it’s not fantastic, don’t serve it.

Why is this not the culture of communications? Why do we serve the burnt sandwich?

We’ve all been there, the client wants a few changes, so we do them. We haven’t cracked the idea, but the deadline is approaching, so you put together whatever you have. The messaging isn’t quite there, but the execution is really fun, so we’ll let the client decide. We want to win a Lion, so we need to get this done regardless of what it is. This new technology came out and we want to use it, so we’ve jammed it into the idea.

These are the excuses we create for giving our customers a big ol’ burnt sandwich. It’s wrong, it’s unethical and, even though they might take a few bites, in the end you have a client who is unhappy, looking for a better sandwich.

Imagine a world where advertising practitioners were seen to be like a chef. A passionate subset of crafts people, who took the care and the time to get their job done right. Experts who had a love for the history, principles and tools of their trade, hard working but in it for the love of the output, because they know how great it is to see a satisfied customer who got what they deserved.

Do you think that clients would rush a person like that? Would a client give a person like that a 2 day deadline or would they respect their craft and give them the time (within reason) to get it done perfectly? I think clients would love to work with people like that and would be much more willing to have a trusting and respectful relationship.

In the end the burnt sandwich hurts us most, so why would you serve it?

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