The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Has Technology Revealed The Creative Industries Dirty Little Secret?
June 7, 2012, 6:06 am
Filed under: Comment

Last week I wrote about the lack of agency folk on magazines ‘most creative people’ lists.

I asked why this was the case and what the hell we were going to do about it.

Then I came across a quote from Albert Einstein and it’s made me think, maybe I’m completely wrong.

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”.

What if adland has never been about original creative?

What if it’s always been about reconstituting other peoples ideas for their own purpose?

After all, in the old days, when there was no email, internet or youtube … we lived in a much smaller, more isolated World.

What happened in – say – America tended to stay in America and if it did eventually cross overseas, it would take years for it to happen.

Not only that, but because there was no quick or easy way to investigate it’s heritage, people were left with the impression that everything they were exposed to was the work of original genius thinking.

Sure, sometimes it was, but maybe less than we have been led to believe.

Advertising today gets a lot of stick.

Apart from people openly questioning it’s effectiveness, it is often criticised for being nothing more than an ‘interpretation’ of other people’s creativity.

Quite often, people have discovered – thanks to their access to technology – that what is being praised as original thinking is nothing more than a rehash of some clip that appears on Youtube.

Or a photo that was on Flickr.

Or a thought that was on Twitter.

Or a book that is available on Amazon.

While I don’t like that our industry is currently being viewed as the Magpies Of Creativity, maybe it always has been that way … so instead of creating commercially focused ideas that infiltrate and impact society, maybe the best way to get us on Fast Company’s ‘most creative people’ list is simply to learn how to hide our sources better.

Like our predecessors did.


Of course there’s an alternative …

Maybe we could be original and use technology to create change rather than to fake it.

Of course that would rely on some fundamental change in how the industry operates – from remuneration to objectives to the timelines we are given to achieve our clients goals – but if we get it right, we would prove how valuable our industry really can be, which is much better than the current ‘strategy’ which seems to be selling ourselves on an hourly fee to deliver a process rather than a result.

Obviously some agencies are living this.

Sadly, it’s not enough.

It’s up to us.


49 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Like my old pa saying walking to school was good for his health and spirit. Lies designed to make him look good and me feel shit. I believe what you say Rob. Even if it’s bollocks, it makes me feel better.

Comment by Billy Whizz

fucking hell, talk about pissing on the fucking dead.

fucking love it.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m not ‘pissing on the dead’ … I’m just posing a question which – if true – would be them pissing on their own bodies. Which is kind of weird. Unless you’re a German pervert.

Comment by Rob

youve just fucked peoples enjoyment of mad men forfuckingever.

Comment by andy@cynic

and the ghosts of bernbach and ogilvy are going to fuck you up. and french, saatchi and wieden are going to hold you the fuck down while they do it.

Comment by andy@cynic

my mum always said shed seen that 1984 apple bollocks before it came out. i always thought it was her meds talking but maybe she had seen it on youtube, even though the internet hadnt been invented yet.

Comment by andy@cynic

and fuck you to any smarmy fuck that points out the internet had been invented. it doesnt count till aol started putting their fucking cds into every bastard magazine on the pissing planet.

Comment by andy@cynic

i love that einstein bastard. probably got all his “ideas” from a fucking book he read in kindergarten. thieving genius prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

This post is going to piss so many people off. Back to the old Rob. The more acceptable to be around Rob.

Comment by DH

And no “what is creative?” comment from George/Pete/Baz/John etc.

Comment by DH

You’re just asking for trouble Dave.

Comment by Rob

Now this is a contentious post.

I know you’re not saying for certain that the creative greats of the past “borrowed” their creativity from others, but just asking out loud is shocking. It’s also interesting. At what point does inspiration turn to duplication? Is it even possible to be creative without some sort of influence from the things around you, either literally or from your upbringing?

Of course you’re not talking about creative inspiration but down right creative regurgitation. From another’s book or film or YouTube clip. The sort of work where you end up playing spot the difference.

The bigger point isn’t your question about how the creative greats did it in the past, but how we do it in the present and maybe that is why places like W+K and BBH are so worthy of their praise, because their seminal work was not able to be linked to someone else’s creativity, but genuine seminal work of their own making.

Use a controversial suggestion of past practices to highlight the issue of the present. Great work.

Comment by Pete

I said no “what is creative?” question Pete. Weren’t you listening?

Comment by DH

i fucking knew this would happen. writing a post that opens up the fucking question of “what is creativity” is like fucking crack for a fucked up planner.

this is all your fault campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

is that really your answer pete or did you get it from the internet?

Comment by andy@cynic

Good point about W+K and BBH. Of course they’re not the only ones who can lay claim to creating powerful work that cannot be directly traced back to someone else’s idea – but they are the 2 that have the longest legacy of being able to pull it off.

Comment by Rob

Making sure you maintain your job options Rob. Clever.

Comment by DH

“Of course that would rely on some fundamental change in how the industry operates – from remuneration to objectives to the timelines we are given to achieve our clients goals – but if we get it right, we would prove how valuable our industry really can be, which is much better than the current ‘strategy’ which seems to be selling ourselves on an hourly fee to deliver a process rather than a result.”

Adlands problem and solution in one paragraph.

Comment by Bazza

Great post Robert. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by the creativity of others, it’s been happening for centuries in industries much broader than advertising. The issue is when you are hard pressed to separate the work.

That’s more than copyright infringement, it’s lazy, debilitating and credibility destroying. if you’re going to “borrow”, it’s either best to be open about it, embrace the work in its entirety or taking it to a better place. Anything inbetween is counterproductive. Unless you follow Einstein’s suggestion perfectly.

Comment by Bazza

were you wanking when you wrote this?

is this planner porn? it fucking is, isnt it? what miserable fucking lives you live.

Comment by andy@cynic

So basically you and Pete are saying that if you have to play ‘spot the difference’, it’s copyright infringement rather than creative inspiration. I like that. Sums up the inspiration/duplication debate nicely.

Of course, the real challenge would be knowing where someones idea originated from – was it really from their brain or from somewhere else and – according to Einstein – should they still be criticised if its origins are hard to find as that automatically demonstrates a level of creativity beyond standard levels?

Questions … questions …

Comment by Rob

what about planners? how much of their shit do they get trawling online line seedy pedos looking to groom their next victim? its only easier to fucking hide because you put it in powerpoint documents no one reads.

what about you campbell, you even steal from your fucking self?

Comment by andy@cynic

He’s used the same presentation for 10 years. Which he copied off one he wrote 15 years ago. He might change the pictures, the fonts and a few words, but it’s still from the same source.

Comment by DH

Yes, but I admit it. Only because it would be impossible to deny it.

Comment by Rob

petes wrong. the real point of this post is that fast companies “most creative people” list is a giant crock of horse shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s the key point.

Another reputation destroyed in this post.

Comment by Pete

thats why its the best post hes written in fucking years.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s real insight.

Comment by Rob

Talent imitates, genius steals.

Comment by John

A planning insider joke.

Comment by Pete

planners are the joke.

Comment by andy@cynic

and whichever fucker said that has tried to imitate einsteins quote that campbell is latching this whole post to so good on the daft fucker for admitting hes no fucking genius, hes at bastard best a little bit talented.

Comment by andy@cynic

what a dick i am. no planner would claim theyre anything other than a fucking genius, thats an oscar fucking wilde quote isnt it. should have known, sounded too fucking well written for a planner.

Comment by andy@cynic

That is a lot of comments for 8:15am.

I wonder how many are actually on tangent?

Comment by Rob

So I’ve read all the comments and I’m quite impressed how ‘on tangent’ they are. Obviously opening the door to kicking history is something everyone aspires to jump through, ha!

I know we don’t want to go into some philosophical planner bullshit about ‘what constitutes creativity’ but I do think the Einstein quote is genius … if only for the fact it is, in some ways, the ultimate backhanded compliment.

While he might be saying all creativity is inspired/borrowed/stolen from somewhere … he is also saying that those people who can do it in a way that is untraceable are deserving of praise because in some way, they saw or recognised the potential in an idea that the masses – maybe even the originator – never saw.

That in itself is an interesting perspective – one that I’m sure adland would like if only so they can big themselves up again … which, let’s face it, they’ve never had a particular problem in doing in the first place.

Comment by Rob

Your magpie theory then.

Comment by Pete

Or should I say Einstein’s magpie theory.

This is getting complicated, can we all go back to how things were before?

Comment by Pete

This reminds me of those math questions at school. If a man leaves his house at 7am and travels at 4mph, how long will it be until he gets married to a woman called Brenda?

So Einstein’s insult is really a compliment because if you steal but get away with it, it’s not wrong. That’s the moral code and legal system screwed by this post too.

Comment by DH

I hated those questions. Which explains why I once got 2% in a maths exam. Ignoring the fact I was stupid.

But yes Dave, that quote has the potential to fuck us up – depending on how deeply we want to explore it. Which is basically the bible’s strategy for guilt tripping, ha!

Comment by Rob

youve all gone fucking mad. and super fucking sad.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just got sent this link, highlighting some of the more obvious ad copyists out there.

I know they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if you keep it quiet until someone names and shames you, then it’s not flattery, it’s reasons for receiving violence against you.

Comment by Rob

The thing about any idea is that it’s not original, the reason that Darwin and that other bloke hit on evolution at the same time was because they were building on other peoples’ work
It’s just that there’s a difference between plagiarism and building on source material.
If you watch any interview with John Webster, he’ll freely admit to being inspired by stuff from all sorts of sources.
Queen were original mind, no one has been quite as toe curlingly bad, before or since. Oh yes they have come to think of it, The Darkness, bastard love child of Freddie and Brian

Comment by northern

the issue isnt that people are influenced by others, its that too many of the fuckers claim theyre totally fucking original which is like an accountant claiming hes mad crazy at the weekends. bullshit.

and for some fucker that hates queen you know a bastard lot about them.

Comment by andy@cynic

Know thine enemy

Comment by northern

I think it’s unfair to call Queen bad. I think it’s fairer to say:
What they did was (arguably) bad, but they were brilliant at it.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Points of pedantry

1) Wilde predates Einstein so Albedrt was “copying” Oscar.

2) It doesn’t matterif the iunfluences show,just as long as they’ve been given a different slant.

3) Mashing up “on subject” and “going off on a tangent” to produce the bizarre “on tangent” is definitely not creative. Nor is it english.

Comment by John

On form

Comment by northern

your fucking spelling and typing is fucking bollocks today doddsy. on the meths again? and you can stick your fucking pedantic shit up your ass because you come to this blog so all cred has already been fucking lost long ago.

Comment by andy@cynic

There is a saying that there is no such thing as an original idea. I believe that is true. People get ideas from other sources and it is their creativity that makes it into something new. Hopefully. Some people are talented enough to do that.

Comment by Christina Cruz

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