How Creativity Died

Mac comes to the fore. Ads now easier to create. And easier to change. Clients and non-creative agency people have yet to notice.
Golden period where the Mac could still help without any buzz-killers to spoil the party.
Mainstreaming of online/email. Communication becomes quicker. Ads can now be presented instantly over a computer rather than in person. Clients have noticed the lubricating effects of the Mac and email and begin to reduce deadlines and demand changes. Work can occasionally be done well within these reduced deadlines. Similar things happen with moving pictures where Henry/Flame etc means that you can ‘fix it in post’. Clients not yet aware of the extent to which this is possible/affordable.
Clients impose reduced deadlines as the norm and start to realise they can tinker with anything up to and beyond the deadline. Whether the changes can be done within the budget becomes a somewhat moot point as, once the fixed costs (computers) have been met, you are only talking about electricity and people’s time. Both are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. The internet and its user-generated content angle starts to appear. As a consequence of easier communication and maximisation of budgets work becomes far more pan-European, if not pan-World, leading to more generalised work that must please a widely-divergent target market. This work can be good but is usually poor. Media begins to fragment so more ground must be covered with the same budget (or less, as procurement people appear on the scene to question why ads needs helicopter shots).
The encroaching primacy of constant and pointless changes has yet to become a huge issue. Enough good ads are still getting made that it’s easy to say, ‘Well if they can do it, why can’t you?’. Clients also want to know why their ad is going to cost so much when Subservient Chicken cost $5000. Creatives start to become disillusioned with the process and begin to do ‘scam’ ads in their spare time to balance out the work they have to do for clients who will not allow them to express any creativity, at least not in the way they thought would happen when they left college. Creatives are marginalised as the other parts of agency management take greater control. A vicious circle begins where disillusioned creatives create less good work and are given less respect, leading to greater disillusionment. Rise of new media agencies and brave new worlds superficially create new opportunities, but also create new sticks with which to beat creatives. Non-experts behave as experts and are treated as geniuses by people who are scared that they are going to miss a boat which is still in dry dock five years later. Larger numbers of international clients lead to longer and less constructive meetings.
Financial downturn tightens the screws. 2008 is very clearly the worst year for UK advertising creativity that anyone can remember. Budgets are slashed. To accommodate this, deadlines are further reduced and work gets worse. Everyone excuses this by citing the recession and the strictures it has imposed. A corrosive mix comes to the boil, consisting of being able to tinker until the last minute at no extra cost, very tight deadlines, marginalisation of creatives, lower budgets, less trust, ads for more people made at a lower cost, fragmentation of budgets corresponding with fragmentation of media, internet advertising explosion turning out to be a busted flush (creatively speaking), no one outside of creative departments truly caring about this because they never really did. Blog post is written about this, complained about, then ignored because there are sufficent numbers of anomalies to refute the general suggestions, even though deep down everyone knows in their hearts that this is all true(ish).
As the recession continues and deepens, advertising sees a gradual but accelerating seepage of creative talent. An industry which used to create work that was better than the programmes that surrounded it, and prided itself on the provision of enjoyment in the workplace, becomes just another job. Creative people realise that they will rarely be given the opportunity to use their talents in this particular industry and decide to work elsewhere. As the better people leave, the teaching and development of youngsters disappears, creating another vicious circle where no good work is made, no new talent is attracted and the new and talented do not join the industry to create the work that would attract their kind.
Polar Ice caps melt. World underwater. No one cares about the difference between ‘bang and the dirt is gone’, and ‘colour like no other’. Humans seek higher ground to avoid drowning. People eat their children to survive.
Fish people rule the world and reinvent advertising as it was circa 1985. Everyone is happy again.