Come siamo lontani. Sto bene anche domani. Che m’ha fatto morir Hah… hah… È meglio così the weekend.
Closest calls of all time:
Gelatin cake (surprisingly compelling):
Niagara Falls collapse:
Closest calls of all time:
Gelatin cake (surprisingly compelling):
Niagara Falls collapse:
Spray paint artist:
Amazing Japanese flip books:
The evil wasp:
Fucking crazy Roman football (the most violent sport on Earth):
The accidental genius:
Quick nterview with the greatest rapper of all time (thanks, A).
Breeding gummy animals:
Why is John Bonham such a good drummer?
Concentric wave singularity:
The most satisfying videos in the world:
Objects invented to defy the law of physics:
Two domino world records:
One of the great things about subscribing to Creative Review is the access it gives you to the mind of Paul Belford.
I recently read back through all his columns and discovered a very interesting point that bears repeating: some of the greatest advertising of all time was created without the benefit of planners. He was referring specifically to the early VW ads such as Lemon and Snowplough, but he could have included anything brilliant created before 1965-8, when the discipline was formally invented in London by Stanley Pollit (the ‘P’ of BMP). Surprisingly, planners didn’t really reach America until the early 1980s, so any great US ads created before then came to life without the help of that department.
(Then again, there were also plenty of crappy ads created in that time. Was that down to poor strategic input? Possibly…)
The need to consider who might like to consume the thing you want to sell, how best to address them and the ways in which your competitors present themselves are basic elements that didn’t magically materialise in the late 1960s. But at that point a degree of formality was deemed necessary, so the industry decided to make planning a specialism, and handed responsibility for it to a separate collection of people in a new department.
The reason I bring this up now is that we appear to have come to an unexpected schism: the idea of doing away with planning its current form has been mooted by no less an industry figure than Mark Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G. He has advocated for the discipline to be handled in-house, with its resources instead allocated to the creative department.
Further commentary has come from Andy Nairn, founding partner (on the planning side) of Lucky Generals. Understandably he has defended the his turf, asserting that planning strengthens the voice of the consumer, one that often gets drowned out by the agency perspective. That makes sense, but he also acknowledges that some planners can be ‘speed bumps’ and ‘resistors of change’ (to be fair, those two categories also exist in creative and account management).
It’s also worth mentioning this crisis of confidence is happening a mere decade after planners were insisting they be granted admittance to the edit suite. Apparently this would allow them to give their valuable input to parts of the creative process from which they had been hitherto forbidden.
So where is this all heading? A reduction in the number of planners? A redistribution of planners’ wages throughout the creative department (winky emoji)? A redistribution of planners’ responsibility amongst Comms Planners, Media Planners and Client Brand Guardians? A redistribution of the three months it takes planners to write a brief back into the creative process? A new way for strategic knowledge to permeate through creativity?
Who knows? I still think there’s great value to be gained from strategists who can analyse the heck out of a business and/or category, offering insight and rigour that uncovers hidden gold. But that only seems to be a small part of the current job, which might explain why the discipline in its current form is going through something of an identity crisis. In addition, the creative department, and advertising in general, have been going through their own ten-year malaise, so planning difficulties might be just one symptom of a more widespread disease.
The offerings of Facebook and Google circumvent every part of the industry, leaving us all fighting for our positions, possibly at the expense of each other’s.
A wise man once said that a creative who works without planning is like someone trying to reach a destination without the aid of a map. Good point, but it feels like the transition from Ordnance Survey to Sat Nav has not been without its hiccups.
What if English were phonetically consistent? (Thanks, D):
Climbing the tallest chimney in Europe:
How to imagine the tenth dimension:
Here’s my chat with Matt Follows, an award-winning creative turned mental health professional and coach.
His early advertising career.
Transitioning into mental health.
The mental health stuff, including…
The ‘Creative INDUSTRY’.
Battery farming creativity.
Lack of control, clarity, purpose and self.
As mentioned in the pod, you can find out more about Matt’s book The Dopamine Switch by clicking on this link and watching the little film that’s full of endorsements from the great and the good of the ad world. Then support its existence by preordering it.
I think the placement system is damaging the entire ad industry.
For those of you who haven’t yet been through it, the placement system is a kind of creative internship whereby a junior/unproven creative team is paid a very small salary for the privilege of being given the chance to gain experience on the job while simultaneously enriching an ad agency and its clients.
I know that the extent of the compensation varies from agency to agency, and that some are not guilty of what I’m about to describe, but in broad strokes young people, usually those with very little money, are paid very little money and given no formal employment benefits to audition for a job in advertising for an unspecified period of time.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? You’ve got to try the goods before making the purchase. You should be allowed to feel the depth of the nap and examine the stitching, otherwise you might buy something substandard, and that would be a disaster, wouldn’t it?
And there really aren’t enough jobs to go around, so the placement system is a chance for creatives to get some experience in an agency that can’t really afford them. That makes it kind a win-win: cheap work for the agency/client and a valuable shot at a foot in the door for the team. So where’s the downside?
Well, it’s right there, running through the entire industry like Blackpool through a stick of rock. First off is the self-selecting element, whereby the cost of living within commuting distance of an ad agency, making that commute and eating some food is almost always more substantial than a placement team’s remuneration. So where does the extra money come from? It’s either savings, a second job or the Royal Bank Of Mum And Dad. Obviously, most people in their early 20s don’t have any savings, and a second job is a pretty hard thing to manage in the 5-9 (that’s am to pm) slog of a junior creative team, which leaves us with the parents.
What kind of parents can support their kids in such an endeavour? Those with a decent amount of spare cash or a home in London with space for another adult (full disclosure: my dad was one of those people). Who does that exclude? The less well off and anyone living outside the M25. That’s a lot of people.
All of this is compounded by the fact that the housing in many major cities has become increasingly expensive. So the system might have worked in the 70s and 80s, when a crappy flat in Paddington was within the housing benefit grasp of a working class kid from Wolverhampton, but there’s almost nothing that fits the bill in the same way today.
You might have heard the word ‘diversity’ pretty much everywhere recently, and how it’s a good thing for all sorts of reasons. In advertising, increased diversity gives the industry a greater ability to talk to more of the population in a way that they might find insightful and persuasive. If the industry is populated mainly by rich people from London that diversity is reduced, and the ads get worse. If you were a client, would you like worse advertising? Probably not.
If agencies can’t speak effectively to a broad and deep range of socioeconomic, racial and cultural sectors, clients will find someone who can. (If I were saying this out loud this is the point where I would make a coughing noise that sounds like ‘Facebook’.) The ability of social media and Google to create witty headlines and arresting visuals might be limited, but they can find left-handed Glaswegians who like Color Me Badd with alarming accuracy.
So the money goes elsewhere, the wages in advertising go down, and that simply increases the talent drain that’s sending would-be copywriters and art directors into the arms of tech, social media and video games. Again, that’s not just down to how placements are organised, but it’s the first stage of a process that makes people who are sitting on the fence fall into someone else’s garden.
So what can be done to improve things? A decent initiative is the Placement Poverty Pledge from the Young Creative Council. It asks agencies to promise a living wage to its placements, rising to a £100 per day freelance rate after three months. Many top agencies have signed up, and that makes it a definite step in the right direction.
But I’d go a step further: the placement system was born in the days when people were queueing around the block for a chance of two underpaid weeks at D’arcy Masius Benton and Bowles. Those days are no longer with us, at least not with a queue packed with the same level of talent. So if agencies want to attract the next Walter Campbell or Rosie Arnold they have to offer something more appealing than whatever Facebook or Rockstar Games is putting on the table.
That could be anything from better snacks to the opportunity to create the kind of mind-blowing work that used to be routine but is now little more exception than rule. But how about we start with this: no placements, just jobs. Account people and planners don’t have to flog themselves to death on weekly contracts for tuppence, so why should creatives? Yes, the youngsters might not work out, but creatives get fired at all stages in their career. Why should the first few months be so special?
ECDs get to see a book of work and meet the team behind it. Millions of people get hired every day based on far less. So how about a creative job pledge? It’ll help with diversity, industry appeal and, ultimately, the standard of the work.