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Last week, when I was in Singapore, my mate Steve – a Regional ECD of a toptastic agency – came up to me and said,
“My only problem with you is you hate too much. If you hate this industry so much, why don’t you leave?”
It was a fair question, with just 2 issues:
1. He thinks I only have one flaw. Hahaha.
2. He thinks I hate the advertising industry.
The first point I can put down to him being a sweetheart despite being a gruff, rough, Scot … the second, I found really disappointing.
The fact is I don’t hate adland.
How could I?
It’s given me an amazing life – both in terms of life experience and standard of living.
There’s not many other industries that would let me work with incredible talent, talk to incredible people, visit incredible places, live in incredible countries and yet still allow me to be my birkenstock wearing self.
I don’t hate the advertising industry, I just hate what it’s becoming.
When I started out in this industry I was taught that commercial creativity was powerful, influential and transformaitonal … but more importantly, I was taught what you had to do to realise it.
It wasn’t good enough to sit on your arse pontificating about it, you had to get off it and do something about it.
In short, do interesting stuff rather than talk about interesting stuff.
I appreciate the irony given I talk about a lot of stuff on this blog, but none of what I say is interesting so it doesn’t count.
Anyway, while there are still a bunch of people – and a few agencies – that live by that mantra, I can’t help but feel it’s getting less and less.
When I look around, I can’t help but feel the industry is focused more on talking about creativity rather than doing it.
And doing scam ads to win a few awards from judges who let it happen because they  haven’t got the balls to call it out or  want their name associated with good stuff, even though it’s not real and – arguably – not good, doesn’t count.
The sad fact is a lot of agencies out there now make more money from the ‘process’ of managing advertising than actually creating it.
How mad is that?
How sad is that!
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate we have to bring in the cash to pay all our salaries, but to allow the value of ‘creativity’ to be devalued just amazes me.
And yet, despite all the proof that what we do is being valued less and less by society and business, we go around with our noses in the air and our heads in the sand, pretending we’re superior to the masses and that everyone appreciates our genius.
But we’re not and they don’t.
It’s time to wake up.
We have amazing people with amazing talent and can achieve amazing things but some of the first things we need to do is stop acting like clients and stop viewing our competition as advertising agencies so we can get back to infecting and affecting culture.
As I said previously, client don’t want us to act like them, they just want us to start listening – and acting – on their needs … not just ours.
Secondly, as horrible as it might be to admit, companies like Google or Facebook or HBO have done more to affect popular culture than pretty much all of adland put together … and what I hate is that as an industry, we seem to have chosen to either ignore that fact or seemingly not be bothered by it.
As I wrote a while back, adland should have come up with Square … the talent and capabilities are certainly within most agencies … but for some reason it didn’t happen.
There’s a bunch of reasons for it – some ours, some not – but what bothers me more is that rather than appreciate what things like Square achieve and represent, we decide to bestow all our praise on ‘ad campaigns’ like the National Australia Bank who spent countless millions promoting the fact they weren’t like other banks.
Don’t get me wrong, that campaign was good – and effective – but it just bothers me that we used to want to use creativity to change the World and now we seem happy with just getting a few newspaper headlines. For a day.
Yes I am being dramatic and no, not everyone acts the way I’ve just described – as I said, there’s some great agencies and a shitload of top people out there [many of which, are not in great agencies], of which I am incredibly fortunate to work with so many directly – but I suppose I just am frustrated that an industry of such potential is seemingly more happy to talk to itself, seek the praise of itself and slap eachother regulary on the back rather than do stuff that forces people outside ‘the inner circle’ to take notice of what we do.
What set this all off was that I saw this tweet from Australian advertising magazine B&T …
Seriously, is there any other industry that would send out a message where you would nominate yourself as awesome?
OK, so idiots that appear on reality TV shows might, but a whole industry?
“Hey, I’m fucking awesome and under 40 so include me” said absolutely no one with an ounce of humanity.
I am tempted to offer B&T cash to give me the names of anyone that nominates themselves so I can send someone over and hit them with a brick.
Adland wants to be rockstars.
Adland wants to be famous.
Adland is becoming Liz Hurley … famous for being famous rather than for doing things that are interesting.
It’s tragic and the sooner we drop all the pretense and posturing and get back to being as great as we can be – and fighting for that acceptance with business rather than selling meaningless processes and cheap everything – the better.
So Steve, I don’t hate adland.
I don’t want to leave adland.
I think we’re still a million times better than a lot of branding companies.
I just want us to stop acting like all is great while everything collapses around us and get back to proving how great we can be in ways that affects more than just our colleagues, peers & award shows.
I have faith in what we can do … who we can be … what we can achieve, but the difference between the industry I started in and, exceptions aside, the industry I am in now, is that one strove to create fundamental change whereas the other – despite all the claims, hype, technology and scam – is happy just doing ads about it.
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