UPDATE: apparently he passed away a few days ago.
Reading that at your desk at 11.20pm is a bit of a kick in the nuts.
…I like the bit about coming up with ideas.
I had to have emergency heart surgery 3 weeks ago (sounds more dramatic than it is). So I kind of get where he’s coming from. I’m lucky that I’ve never worked at an agency that’s treated creatives quite as he describes. But even so, I’m wondering why I’m at my desk at 8.15 every morning. This all leads back to your previous posts about having a “plan B”, Ben.
Fantastic read. So much to identify with (especially the booze part). Another delusion of us ad people is that we believe that somewhere out there is an agency that’s different and truly protects its creative talent. The way to identify these places is by the quality of their work, right? Because only if a creative can create without fear can he do his best. And the only way to get in is to do your best work and win lots of shiny statues for it. So you end up pushing yourself even harder to do work you could probably only do at your dream agency to get a job there in the first place. Complete madness.
And then you see the work from w+k for Tesco…excuse me while I open a window.
….there’s no doubt about it, I’ve wasted a lot of time at work. But I’ve also wasted a lot of time picking my nose, scratching my arse and worrying about my receding hairline.
I’ve missed a lot of family stuff because of my career (which I regret), but I’ve also enjoyed a job where for the best part I’ve found myself excited about the prospect of going into work.
As a teenager I worked in a few factories and a supermarket and in my Dad’s scrapyard……..it wasn’t as good as advertising.
I’ve definitely struggled with getting the work/life balance right but overall I consider myself very lucky to have secured a job that I’ve loved (after all everyone has to work).
Given all that, the plot has changed now and the forces of darkness are gathering to suck the last remaining vestiges of joy out of the creative process.
If I was starting out now I probably would choose another industry.
But I’m clinging on because I still believe that there is a possibility that the pendulum might swing back and creativity is seen as a valuable commodity once more.
….Plus I’m really enjoying the process of squaring up to the forces of darkness at the moment.
Up here in Scotland we had the great privilege and fun of working with Lindsey in various agencies.
He was a great art director – the work he did on BBC Scotland still looks great today (it’s in a D&AD somewhere).
He left these shores for NZ a long time ago, but his name kept cropping up and we followed his exploits from afar.
Then the cancer arrived – followed by a truly remarkable blog. For anyone who has experienced cancer, or knows someone close with it, the humour, insight and dignity of his writing makes it essential reading. (Or Redding as he would doubtless of punned.)
He died last week. I heard they sent his ashes up into space earlier this week. A star now in his rightful place.
May your god bless you Lindsey.
Is he the guy who did those ads for BBC radio with the amazing on-screen typography?
If so they’re in D&AD 1994 lots of times. Can someone check? (I sold mine.)
And Original RH: how can emergency heart surgery not be dramatic? I hope you’re feeling much better.
[…] Ben kay’s blog linked to this moving account of creativity in the advertising agency […]
If you’re creative these days and it suits you, you go into tech and do a start-up. It’s the only place where people thicker than you don’t get to tell you what to do.
Advertising was always a deal with the devil. It’s just in the past, the deal was slightly more favourable.
The fact he passed away makes commenting difficult without seeming disrespectful to a man I’ve never met.
But anyone who has their eye on the prize at the expense of people, no matter what the industry, is going to get a shock when their number is called.
I’d rather it was called after having fun in our game, than after being dehumanised and in some other.
We all get the summons in the end, I guess.
Lindsey was my mentor at Faulds Advertising a long time ago now. A great creative! He taught me a lot. Not just about being a creative.More about being a good person. I’ll miss you sir.
Well, strictly speaking, what I had done was “non surgical” – I guess it’s what’s known as keyhole surgery… getting-to-your-heart-via-an-artery-in-your-crotch type stuff. No big chest opening, rib-cracking procedures. But thanks anyway. I’ll be fine.
It’s all very sobering and sad. And it begs a new direction.
If you’re the kind to accept the bullshit deadline and kill yourself over something that everyone knows doesn’t matter, then yes. Your life is going to suck because you’ve relinquished control of both your ideas and your life. Many better than us have learned this lesson and it’s about time we took it to heart.
If you’re in an agency that treats you that way, get out. Period. Full stop. You’re being victimized by greed and ruled by fear. Now, every agency has a few fire drills when something needs doing quickly. The good ones know that those things only happen rarely. Learn the difference and choose your employment accordingly.
I’m a creative, sure. Am I a good one? I’ve no means to judge other than the success I create for clients with my ideas – which are only my ideas in spirit. Someone is paying me to create for them. If I want to be creative and in complete control, I create on my own time. I scratch that itch. When I’m at work, I get to use that part of my brain on behalf of someone else.
That’s the difference between being an artist and being a communicator. The former makes art for the sake of art – scratching one’s own itch and hoping everyone understands it. The communicator makes art for the sake of communication – scratching one’s own itch for the benefit of another and MAKING everyone understand.
He was a lovely bloke.
And yes Ben, they are his ads in the ’94 annual.
We’ll be up there at Christmas if you fancy a pint.
did he do that that “foggie bummer” type and scottish voiceover TV campaign that everyone ripped off?
that was brilliant.
it sounds like he worked for assholes who didn’t know what they were doing and made his life hell. most of modern advertising in other words.
Actually the agencies he worked for in Scotland (Halls and Faulds) were in the main pretty good places where everything was geared to produce the best possible work. For evidence look back through the old D&ADs from the mid 70’s on through to the late 80’s.
Give me a call when you’re up Kev.
Great piece. Such an effing shame.
Journalism has gone the same way as advertising – you now work in a news factory. In fact all the old trades are now indistinguishable in terms of what you actually do from regular office-type jobs (i.e. sit at a desk for long periods).
Motivation of drones is similar too it seems. I heard that McKinsey, the management consultants, set out to hire needy, dissatisfied personalities because they know they’ll be more likely to want to prove themselves by working all night.
The other thing that trips people up is sort of reifying the company, i.e. building it up into an idea that stands for something, that one can believe in. However, in reality its almost always merely a group of individuals trying to make a buck – and who won’t give you a second thought as soon as the water closes over your head.
Don’t work for big companies unless you really have to.
Why don’t we all down tools at 6PM every Wednesday??? If everyone does it then it’d work right? IF EVERYONE DOES IT.
I just started working in advertising. Is there a union for creatives?
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