Filed under: Comment
For all the talk of openness, adland is actually pretty conservative.
We like putting people into boxes or saying ‘this is how things have to work’ … and while there are some valid reasons for that, from remuneration to the maintenance of standards, the reality is we haven’t really developed our approach to the same extent of other industries.
A lot of that is because despite all the tools, processes and [alleged] propriety tools, adland is still a people-driven business and result of the work – both creatively and effectively – is influenced far more by the people involved in the creative development than the process being adopted.
Now there’s good and bad in that.
Good, because if you have amazing, open-minded people that share beliefs – if not approaches – you stand a good chance that you will be able to keep creating awesome.
Bad, because if you have people who are closed minded and say ‘this is the way that you do things’, you end up creating category parity.
Sadly, there seems more in the bad group than the good.
This is not a case of me dissing people who have a wealth of experience – far from it, we need those people – however if their approach never evolves, never accepts people and society change, never appreciates that if you create work like everyone else it’s actually not doing much for the business, then they’re holding our industry back rather than pushing it forward … something, in my mind, we desperately need to do.
I was very lucky that I started at an agency that liked individual thought.
That doesn’t mean they were like liberal parents and met everything you said/did with applause – it means they were keen to discuss, debate, explore and – when they felt there was some validity to what you were suggesting/saying/contemplating, even if you couldn’t actually prove it – experiment.
For them, they knew that to keep moving things forward meant always inviting alternative opinions into the mix, not just keep the same group of established people in their self-contained bubble, regardless how experienced, smart and successful they were.
In essence they liked – and encouraged – weird to always be in the air, whether that was my suggestion we ask car thieves about what they think makes a car radio desirable [for stealing] to exploring what we could learn from forensic profilers in terms of understanding culture.
To be honest, I gravitated towards this because quite frankly, this was how I was brought up by my parents.
They made me value knowledge and experience as well as breath of opinion.
I was told ‘freaks are interesting’ … ‘opinions are liberating’ … ‘experimentation is intelligence’.
Of course, I never realised this was different until I ended up working – for a very limited time – at an agency that was the antithesis of that.
Where I was told “that isn’t how we do things here” … “that’s ridiculous” … “you’re being naive” … and while they may well of had a point, it was destructive both professionally and emotionally.
Fortunately I got my own back when 15 years later, I was invited to speak at a conference and was able to say that everything I was talked about was based on what I had believed for over a decade … things that I had been previously criticised and ridiculed for suggesting.
Please don’t think I’m saying I was ahead of my time – far from it – all I’m saying is that some of the things that I now view as insanely important only came about because I was lucky enough to have some people encourage I explore the possibilities rather than have them dismiss it before it had a chance to be explored … which is why I hold those individuals in the highest acclaim possible and why I honestly believe anything I achieve in my career is down to them.
So what am I trying to say?
I suppose that if you’ve ever been told your beliefs and approaches aren’t right, don’t accept it. Sure, you might need to adapt it … sure you might need to evolve it … sure you might even need to change fundamental parts of it, but your weird can be your superpower and you should never forget it.
33 Comments so far
Leave a comment