Campaign UK

Stop bang­ing on about the good old days

Cre­ative lead­ers need to de­velop cre­ative peo­ple for the world now, not for the world they started out in


I’ve been feel­ing a lit­tle nos­tal­gic lately. Now, that might be the ini­tial rum­blings of early on­set midlife cri­sis (I’m think­ing about my chil­dren’s ini­tials on the in­side of each wrist or one of those gi­ant-stars-on-the-el­bow tat­toos that peo­ple with the big ho­ley ear­rings used to favour, if you’re won­der­ing) or it could be the glut of ex­cel­lent, in­for­ma­tive, hal­cyon-days-of-ad­ver­tis­in­gref­er­enc­ing pod­casts that have been wang­ing their way into my lit­tle brain­box.

From Ben Kay’s chats with sem­i­nal crafts­men such as Sean Doyle and Dave Dye on his

If This is a Pod­cast Then What’s Christ­mas? se­ries to the afore­men­tioned (and peer­less) Dye’s bril­liantly in­for­ma­tive con­ver­sa­tions with TOM FUCKING MCELLIGOTT (if you don’t know who he is and you’re a cre­ative, shame on you), Chris Palmer and Peter Souter, they’ve been en­gag­ing and ed­u­ca­tional lis­tens for any­one in the in­dus­try.

There does seem to be a bit of a re­cur­ring theme, though: that be­ing a cre­ative is not like it used to be.

The bug­bears are fa­mil­iar. To para­phrase the kind of things you hear from these leg­ends (al­beit with less wit or elan but, on the plus side, in snazzy ital­i­cised type): Cre­ative department­s aren’t val­ued any more. No time. No money. No craft. No re­spect for the work. Pile it high and chuck it at the client (it’s bill­able, right?). Route upon route upon route (I hate the “route” thing, by the way – it’s an idea, not the sat­nav re­sults for a trip to a plumb­ing con­ven­tion in Nantwich). Build a deck. Build two decks. Build a deck about the deck. Build a deck about the deck’s sis­ter’s cousin, twice re­moved. Then print it 15 times (A3) and throw it straight into a re­cy­cling bin be­cause: “I’m sorry guys, but I think we’re go­ing to have to ‘go again’.” Go again? We’re not go­ing any­where, mate – we’re here till ten o’clock most nights…

And so it goes. You can see why they’re a bit grumpy when they put it like that. Doesn’t paint a great pic­ture for the future of cre­ativ­ity, does it?

But here’s the thing: hark­ing back doesn’t help any­one.

We have to em­brace the re­al­i­ties of the in­dus­try now.

We could whinge about clients ex­pect­ing more and more cre­ative op­tions. Or we could try to find more ef­fi­cient ways of man­ag­ing them with­out com­pro­mis­ing the qual­ity of the cre­ative work or de­stroy­ing the morale of our cre­ative teams.

Frag­mented me­dia land­scape? Or more chan­nels than ever be­fore for tal­ented peo­ple to do bril­liant work in?

Hit with a tiny pro­duc­tion bud­get? Find a way around it or shoot it your­self (as ev­i­denced by my fel­low deputy ex­ec­u­tive cre­ative di­rec­tor, Jim Thorn­ton, who’s di­rect­ing the lat­est raft of Na­tion­wide com­mer­cials with agility and aplomb – and he’s 54, so this is def­i­nitely an at­ti­tude, not an age, thing).

As cre­ative lead­ers, we have to do ev­ery­thing in our power to arm the peo­ple in our department­s who are just start­ing out with the skills and in­spi­ra­tion they need to pro­duce the best work in the in­dus­try of to­mor­row, not the in­dus­try circa 1995.

Stop with the egos.

Start a men­tor­ing pro­gramme.

Teach them how to present them­selves and their work.

Fund their spec ideas.

Plough agency re­source into their per­sonal projects.

In­sist on great craft and in­vest the time and money re­quired into help­ing them im­prove theirs across ev­ery­thing they do – whether it’s a full-page press ad (re­mem­ber those?) or a three-sec­ond flam on Whim­ber­whap.

En­ter their work for awards be­cause you be­lieve it to be bril­liant, not just be­cause you’re bonused on Gunn Re­port points.

Praise them.

Pay them.

Give them per­mis­sion to fail (and pick them up and dust them off when they do – Christ, that sounds a bit “in­stru­men­tal Cold­play”, doesn’t it?).

But, above all, turn your gripes into their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Be­cause, one day, they’ll prob­a­bly be lead­ing you.

“‘No time. No money. No craft. No re­spect for the work.’ Doesn’t paint a great pic­ture for the future of cre­ativ­ity, does it?”

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