I’ve had a fair few whinges on here about the marginalisation of creativity, but I’m not sure I’ve ever said that we (creatives) kind of deserve it.
I came into the business with my ears full of stories, apocryphal or otherwise, of the previous generations of creatives and their leisurely, indulged lifestyles: the guys on six-figures in the eighties who hit the pubs as soon as they opened and spent the day gambling their massive salaries away; the plant pots thrown through windows; the sports cars that made up for the giant tax rate in the sixties; the somewhat dismissive attitudes towards women; the snarly, off-hand manner with which non-creatives were treated etc.
Well, when the quality of the work was all-important, that was all fine. The rest of the agency had to just suck it up and envy us. We went on the foreign jollies, we hung out with directors and photographers, we got to see our stuff on TVs and billboards and we picked up the awards. But then we were the geese laying the golden eggs, and it made perfect sense to keep that genius ticking along, no matter what it took.
But we were also building up a seething volcano of resentment.
The other departments, particularly account management and planning, didn’t enjoy having to kow-tow to the boys in trainers who drifted in at eleven and went to the pub at twelve after dashing off for a quick chat with Ridley or Alan.
It fucked them off big time.
But for ages there was nothing they could do about it. The geese. The golden egg… It was sacrosanct.
Then the worm started to turn. It took a while, but the people with the word ‘account’ in their job title were generally the people in charge, and little by little they chipped away at our status. Lower wages, a sharper eye on the working hours, quantity becoming just as important as quality. And over a decade or two the effect was complete. The decisions were being made by people who couldn’t tell a good ad from a hole in the ground, so they didn’t really care if were were indulged superstars laying golden eggs or worker drones laying turds. The money was the same colour either way and in the latter instance they could pay less of it to us. As far as they could tell there was no real drop in standards, and with everyone producing shit, it looked like no one was producing shit.
Something still won a gold arrow at the BTAAs.
Something still filled the pages of D&AD.
Something still won an ever-increasing number of Lions at Cannes.
How could anyone prove things were getting worse?
No one could, so as far as people with no taste are concerned, everything is hunky blooming dory.
So that’s it, I’m afraid: they’ve won.
Yes, there are exceptions to prove rules, and the above is a bit of a generalisation, but take a look around and you’ll see that advertising in this country ain’t what it used to be. CDs are hired to be dictated to by MDs and CEOs. They can’t say boo to a goose anymore, let alone throw one out of a window to prove a point about kerning. If you want a bit more proof, take another look and see if anything your agency produces could be defined as ‘scam’. It’s what we’ve all been reduced to now: utterly pointless willy-waving that devalues what we do still further.
And what I’m saying should be no surprise to you. A huge chunk of the best creatives in the business have left town. There were always the ones who wanted to direct, but now the ones who would have stayed in the game are all off abroad, or working in some other industry that might just value their talent.
Which means things will only get worse.
Yes, the job is still relatively enjoyable. Yes, great work is still occasionally possible.
But the party’s over. The house lights are up, the floor is smeared with cake and the tables are littered with beer bottles and the dregs that sit at the bottom of them.
And it’s all our fault.
*All references to ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’ etc. are to denote creatives. Of course most of us didn’t take that mile. The ones who did were the goddamn babyboomers, who sucked up all the good stuff while were were still in nappies. Has there even been a jammier generation in the history of the planet? The ones in this country had no wars, grew up with The Beatles, got older to Zep and Floyd, had the best generation of movies there has ever been to enjoy in the cinema and then got the rub of the green in the housing market. Sheesh. Way to fuck it up for the rest of us.