Sunday, 10 April 2016


Recently, I spoke at our graduation event. The graduates of 2014 and those from 2015 were there to receive their diplomas. 

These graduates are all in the business so I thought I would tell them what they are now up against. 

Part of the speech was published by Campaign magazine. 
Here is the full version. 

You are in the business.
You made it.
Now let me tell you something.
Advertising is rubbish.
It’s broken.
There are no stand-out agencies.
No stand-out campaigns. 
No hot shops. No creative boutiques.

There’s no creative jealousy.
The words, I wish I’d done that, are rarely uttered by writers and art directors these days.
There was a time when the ads were better than the programmes. 
When the cinema ads entertained and when creatives fought for the poster briefs. And the radio ads did cool things to your ears.

This is great news.
You have come in to an industry that, creatively speaking, is on its knees.
What a great opportunity you have.
You are in a fantastic position.
Because the only way to go is up.
Standard wise, we can’t go down any further, in my view.

So what do you do?
The answer is simple.
You fight.
You fight.

You fight for more time.
Clients want to see ideas too soon. It might be good for the agency client relationship, but it's not good for creativity. 

It is proven that the most talented creative professionals play with ideas for longer. 
They are prepared to suffer the anxiety you feel when you haven't cracked a problem in an original way.
Creatives get tense and anxious after they have brainstormed ideas. So, to release the tension you feel you have to make a decision. 
They decide to present, or they are asked to present, their ideas  too soon and run with them. 

The creatives who want original ideas do not make a quick decision. They are happy to live with this tension and dissonance for longer periods. 

And in doing so come up with ideas that are more original.
Fight for the right to wallow in the anxiety you need to create great work.

Fight for more time.

Fight for simplicity.
You need to take on the introverted risk averse clients who are using advertising for the sole purpose to further their own careers by introducing confusion and complexities just so that they are seen to solve the confusion and complexities they themselves introduced.

Fight for the 6 word brief.
Fight against the big words. And the verbose intellectuals.

When I worked at Lowe Lintas there was a Head of Planning who was a big hairy man who had a wizard’s beard. 
He wore linen tops that had embroidered sleeves. 
He had books on his shelf about from Eastern philosophers. 
(The creatives had Viz, The Beano and Spike Milligan.)

He walked around bare foot. The clients thought he was the guru of all things advertising. He would stroke his beard and utter  stuff like, 

...'the purpose of the brand journey is to maximise the transportative emotion to register the consumer consciousness with a brand mnemonic'. 

What he was trying to say was, write a memorable ad.

Advertising is your mum your best mate and your brother and the little old lady next door.

Fight for simplicity.

Fight for fun. 
Fight for humour.  
Fight for the right to entertain.
Take on those who stand by the water cooler, waxing lyrical over The Book of Mormon, Three Lions and Alan Partridge and then return to their desks and are scared shitless at the thought of presenting your funny script.

Fight the client who lost his humour with each sprout of his pubic hair and  who last laughed when he saw the dinner lady slip over a spilled bowel of rice pudding in the dinner hall at Eton.

Fight for fun.

Fight for your own space.
Fight for more walls. Walls are not barriers.  They are quite the opposite.  Walls are creative canvasses where your collection of madcap images, quotes, illustrations and photos talk to you in wondrous tones and with magical voices. 

Walls are an organic, ever changing tapestry of your  own unique creative culture,  a tangible inspiring display of the creative you, which confirms that you are not working in a bank or telesales centre but in the nourishing womb of a creative advertising agency that respects the notion that the creative mind needs a creatively stimulating environment.

Fight for your own space.

Fight against the nodding brigade.
The industry is far too polite. 
If we all nod and agree and we look for approval we get agreeable, polite advertising that gets approved.
Shake your head occasionally.
No that doesn’t make sense.
No we can’t show that.
No we can’t run that.
No, I disagree because.
No, we need more time.
No, that is not good enough.
No, this brand deserves better thinking…a clearer brief..
No, we need more time.

My father had a Triumph Herald.
On the back shelf he had a nodding dog.
It used to bounce its head up and down and it had a big smile on its face. The thing I noticed was this: the dog nodded when the car was going fast. 
It nodded when the car went slow. It nodded when the car went forwards and when the car went in to reverse. It nodded up hills and it nodded going down hills.
It nodded in sunny weather and in bad.
It was as if the dog was continually giving him approval on his driving.
And when my father drove into the back of another car which he shunted into another car which in turn hit another car, causing a 4 car pile-up, guess what? The dog was still nodding.
Still giving its approval.
The industry is far too polite.
And my guess is that a lot of great ideas are crashing.

Fight against the nodding brigade.

Fight for learning.
Surround yourself with mentors, muses and magicians.
Every agency should have a creative mentor.  Learn from them. And if you don’t have that special one in your agency, you are in the wrong agency and you should leave and join an agency that does have a special one.

Fight for your agency to send you on courses.
Go to pottery classes and throw ads.
Go to  knitting  classes and knit ideas.
Go to clown school  and create childlike, clownish ideas.
Keep learning.
One day you might want a second career.

So, the answer is simple.
You fight.
Fight smart.
Fight with your logic,
Fight with your smiles,
Fight with your humour,
Fight with carefully chosen powerful words and with your every inch of your self-belief.
Fight with your passion. Fight with your heart.
Fight with common sense.
Fight with reasoned argument.
Fight the battles you know you can win and fight the battles you think you can win.
And sometimes fight the battles you don’t think you can win.
You might win them.
Above all, fight with your talent.

And, if you keep fighting, every great piece of work you make will be hugely rewarding, because you fought for it.
And if you lose your jobs in trying to make the industry creatively better, then frankly the business doesn’t deserve you.

The future of advertising is in your hands.
Advertising is busted.
It’s now your responsibility to fix it.

It is worth fighting for.
I know how good you all are.
And how much better you want to be.
You can do it.

Good luck.

No comments:

Post a Comment