Sunday, March 02, 2014

Creatures Of Adland

Loving this new tumblr, Creatures of Adland.

The idea is that just as there are collective nouns for animals - a murder of crows, a crash of rhinos - there should be collective nouns for the denizens of our business.

They're superbly illustrated, but of course they are stereotypes, and I began to wonder... like all stereotypes, do they have a hidden meaning?

I'm talking about the way collective nouns reveal more about the people who coin them, than they do about the creatures being described. For example, the phrase a 'murder' of crows doesn't really tell us anything significant about crows - in reality they are no more murderous than many other birds. But it does tell us plenty about what humans find sinister - darkness, high-pitched screaming noises.

So I apologise in advance to the creative team that created these, who are clearly very talented, first for abusing their copyright and secondly for dissecting their work... but here we go.

A straightforward one to start off with. 'A feast of freelancers' overtly seems to be saying that freelancers earn shitloads of cash. In this very cool image, they are literally swimming in it.

The reality is they aren't. Day rates are static or declining. And obviously you don't earn in-between gigs, or during holidays (or illnesses). The vast majority of freelancers would much rather have a full-time job, should they be offered one.

What this image really tells us is that today's creatives - the people that this image is intended to appeal to - feel they are dramatically underpaid. "Look at those other guys," it says. "They are earning way too much. That should be us."

Again, a very cool image. Superficially, it tells us that Creative Directors say 'no' a lot. Now obviously, that is a huge part of our job. What if two teams present work on the same brief, can we say yes to both? No, clearly we can't. Or even one team presenting several ideas... are we supposed to say yes to all of them? Of course we can't. Also, most ideas aren't good. In fact someone once defined the job as "saying no in an inspirational way."

So what does the image tell us about the mindset of the creatives who created it, and the creatives it will appeal to? In my opinion, and this isn't rocket science, it again speaks to how frustrated today's creatives are. They feel their creativity is being stifled, and the easiest person to blame is the person who most directly blocks it off.

The image may be about ambition too. Are the creative directors portrayed as an obstacle because they are (currently) preventing young creatives from becoming CD's themselves?

I know I keep saying it, but what a fabulous image. The people who put this together have real talent.

But what's it really saying? Superficially it's about anger, but I suspect that it's actually about powerlessness. Creatives have slipped further and further down the hierarchy of the advertising business. Rather than running the show, as we used to, in most agencies there is now no reverence for us or our skills at all.

'Rant' is a great word. To some extent it has positive qualities - the word seems to imply a level of articulacy, and describes someone who is not afraid to speak out.

However, it's fundamentally a powerless word. A rant is purely a public venting - it's not going to actually change anything. A rant is an acknowledgement that you have already lost the debate, and just want to express how angry you are about that. 

Again, I love love love this image. The poses of the creatives are akin to rock stars, and the sea of raised hands in the front also makes me think of the crowd at a gig. On the surface then, the image is saying that creatives are deluded because they think they are rock stars.

But I wonder if it's possible to interpret this image in terms of regret not delusion. Is it about a nagging feeling that we 'settled' for advertising - described in Freakonomics as a 'Second Tier Glamour Profession' along with fashion and publishing, but ranked behind music, art and film? 

We are artistically talented people, we dress cool and 'are' cool... is it possible that, if we'd played our hands differently, we could have become rock stars? Or artists or film-makers? 

Okay, we have reached the end of our session.

Sorry if all this has seemed rather serious and dark. When you go under the skin of a joke, you inevitably kill its humour. And reveal a nest of anxieties and insecurities - which are what give jokes their power.

And in the case of creatives, these images reveal that we feel underpaid, stifled, powerless, and are worrying whether we made the right career choice.

Have a great week!


Adrian said...

Glad you liked our work simon. If I wasn't on my way home from the pub, I'd break down your critiques in a more eloquent manner. You'll have a field day with the ones we've got planned for this week mate.

Scamp said...

Ha! Looking forward to them. Keep up the good work, mate.

Gerad said...

"A complication of Planners" is an interesting one too. Sadly I think for the most part it would be true, but there are two underlying messages in this.

Firstly, a lot of planners probably do overcomplicate things by presenting 1,363 Powerpoint slides of information and not ever quite getting to the insight.

The other could be that some creatives don't want the insight, even when it is delivered, because it stops them from just doing what they want.

Both of these are massive generalisations. But I do think it's an interesting observation when the job of planners should be to make it easier to make great ads that speak to an audience. That is, to take the guesswork out and coalesce all the complicated data and information into something useful.


john p. woods said...

A piƱata of planners?

Anonymous said...

Ha. Love the pinata of planners JCW. And complication too G.
There could be dozens.
How about an apoplexy of planners?

Jim Powell said...

Brilliant post. I suggest "An Optimism" of new business directors.

I'm not sure Scamp if pointing out issues, being satirical, ranting or being critical 'always' means one has lost the argument.

Maybe it's the beginning of suggesting alternatives. And starting debate is often healthy especially in a world where it is lacking IMO. Largely due to fear as you suggest.

I think it trumps the 'shut up and get on with it" brigade's suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Plethora of Planners - I can think of a few agencies with surplus.

Matt & Dan said...

How about a scramble of interns

Anonymous said...

I'm a both freelancer and exception hat proves rules. In other words I get plenty of cash and plenty of time off. If I wasn't so lazy I'd get even more cash but less time off. But agencies can be awfully annoying and I can only take is for so long.
In my experience of many many CDs both good and bad, the majority are obstructions. They do obstruct good work and facilitate bad. On the whole. You know broad brush strokes

Anonymous said...

A paradigm of Planners.

For a group so desperate to convince that their insight alone can break the paradigm of the day, they seem oblivious to the fact that they are so clearly stuck in their own …. paradigm.