Stuart Elliott vs. Barbara Lippert: Battle of the Bards

Stuart_elliottFame Tracker has a cunning feature called Two Stars One Spot that performs an act of celestial economy:   If two stars are too much alike, Fame Tracker proposes an act of elimination.   

Thus did Wing Chun (Fame Tracker founder) compare Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney in the "Battle of the Probably Quite Affordable Leading Men." 

Two Stars One Spot sprang to mind when I read Stuart Elliott’s column on advertising this morning in the New York Times.  Now, I like Stuart Elliott but I can’t help feeling he has been a little reticent and unforthcoming lately, somewhat off his game.

So this morning was a revelation.  Elliott came out swinging. 

At last, the 20th Olympic Winter Games have finally finished. Rarely have so many worked so hard to produce so dull and disappointing an outcome. And rarely have the flops, flubs and foul-ups been so overwhelming.  But enough about the advertising.

Baboom!  Stuart isn’t taking prisoners.  "Far too many commercials," he said, "were unimaginative, derivative and pedestrian." 

This closes the distance between Elliott and the other great observer of advertising, Barbara Lippert.  Lippert writes a column for Adweek, and her work is splendid.  I mean, really splendid. 

And this is heartening.  Slowly but surely, popular culture has improved its critical standards.  After many painful years, the likes of Rex Reed were supplanted by the likes of Roger Ebert who was then improved upon by the likes of Lisa Schwarzbaum.

So much for the movies.  What about advertising?  Unless I’m missing someone, Lippert was the sole voice that combined the gifts of intelligence and critical acuity.  If Mr. Elliott is now in the game, that’s two. 

There is plenty of room here.  My morning epiphany was premature.  It is too early for a Two Stars One Spot standoff.  Vast stretches of commercial culture remain to be assessed and assayed.  Two people is hardly enough for all the artifacts of advertising. 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  Without gifted observers, we cannot give heart or credibility to gifted participants.  More practically, we cannot persuade clueless clients to give agencies the freedom they need to do great work.  A blessing from Lippert or Elliott, this is just the thing to keep the philistines at bay.  A wider distribution of the work of Lippert and Elliott, and before you know consumers themselves will become more intelligent, more demanding..that all creative and critical boats might rise with the tide. 


Chun, Wing (aka Tara Ariano).  2005.  FameTracker: 2 Stars, One Slot: McDermott vs. Mulroney.  here.

Elliott, Stuart.  2006.  More Tin Than Gold for Olympic Spots.   New York Times.  February 28, 2006.  here.

Lippert, Barbara.  2006.  Barbara Lippert’s Postgame Superbowl Critique.  Adweek.  February 7, 2005.  here.