Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.63 - Read Jerome's Tips

Jerome Courtial, who writes the excellent Digicynic, has just left BBH for a fab new job to be a planner on Coke and Nike at W&K Amsterdam.

Sadly it means he won't have time to blog any more, hookers and blow being as time-consuming as they are.

But his parting gesture was an excellent set of tips on How To Have A Successful Career In Advertising, that are relevant to every discipline - planning, creative, account handling. Full of insight, his post reminds me just how much I'm going to miss him.

Read it immediately, if not sooner.

Previous Tips

Monday, September 29, 2008

Are You A Sociopath?

This handsome fellow is Tim Lindsay, president of TBWA London. I think he looks rather like Ian McShane, the actor who played sociopaths in Sexy Beast and Deadwood. Tim Lindsay, of course, is not a sociopath... but he does work with some. Us.

Explaining to The Guardian why people in advertising need 'diagonal thinking', he says that "most of all you need it to manage creative types - often borderline sociopaths who just don't play by the rules."

I do hope he was misquoted. Especially in the light of today's news...

Friday, September 26, 2008


Went to Cream last night.

In case you don’t know, it’s an event that showcases 'the cream' of student books.

87 teams entered, from the likes of Watford, St Martin’s, Bucks, and Miami Ad School.

20 were selected, by judges who included Nick Bell, Steve Henry, both Al Youngs, and even me. Hence my attendance.

It was much fun. Graham Fink was there, looking like a character from The Matrix, plus Trevor Beattie... and Agyness Deyn and Mark Ronson (they weren't at Cream, just there for a drink at the place it was held).

Stat fans may be interested to hear that 25% of Cream creatives were female, and fully 50% were non-UK.

I have to say that the quality of the books blew me away. Probably the worst ad in any of the books there was better than the best ad I had in my student book, fourteen years ago.

Rory Hill of The Talent Business (Rory did a tip-top job of organising the whole thing by the way) has an interesting theory on this. He reckons that the job market is very tough at the moment, which means young creative teams are taking longer to get jobs, and that’s why the quality of people without jobs is so high.

Scant consolation if you’re living on powdered baked beans I suppose, but there you go.

Here’s some of the ads that caught my eye:

“See God’s special effects. Visit Iceland.”

Pretty good, don’t you think?

Top Ten ‘Lies Creatives Tell’

Okay, just to even things up...

1. We worked all weekend on this

2. It just won’t make sense as a 30 - it has to be a 40, at least. A 60 would be best

3. I really wish I could squeeze it in, but we're swamped with work right now

4. I was stuck in traffic

5. I never got that e-mail

7. You'll have it by 3pm

8. Your brief is our No.1 priority

9. But it IS on brief

10. We tried the changes you suggested - it just didn't work

Again we thank Creative Beef.

If you're feeling confessional, add your own in the comments below...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top Ten ‘Lies Account Handlers Tell’

1. The meeting went really, really well

2. This is the last change, I swear

3. The deadline is [time]

4. We’re not officially divorced, but it’s on the way

5. The client wants something edgy

6. Don’t worry about the budget

7. The client loves the idea

8. Rough layouts will be fine

9. It’s just a small change

10. We won't sell the safe option, but we need it there to show that our preferred route is better

P.S. I'm not talking about you, my friends the BBH account handlers! I'm talking about other account handlers.

Adapted from a post on Creative Beef, a US blog that's subtitled 'Horror Stories From The World Of Advertising'.

Add your own fave fibs below.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Galaxy Is Thrashing Dairy Milk - So Was 'Gorilla' A Failure?

A reader points us to an interesting and potentially worrying story from Brand Republic.

We've all been led to believe Gorilla was a resounding sales success. But it seems not:

Dairy Milk lags market as Galaxy steals share

by Nicola Clark Marketing 23-Sep-08, 08:30

LONDON - Cadbury's flagship Dairy Milk brand has lost market share to arch-rival Galaxy.

According to the annual Biggest Brands survey compiled exclusively for Marketing by TNS, Dairy Milk lost share in the take-home confectionery sector, posting growth below the 2% market rate to reach a sales value of about £200m. By contrast, Galaxy grew 12% year on year to about £80m.

Jan Jesenovec, confectionery analyst at TNS, said that Dairy Milk's loss of share may be due to a lack of NPD. 'Advertising will not significantly increase your sales,' he added. 'It simply reinforces the positions of big brands.'

Dairy Milk and Galaxy use very different marketing strategies, and Galaxy attributed its strong performance to its unique positioning, which targets women in 'indulgent moments'. The brand has also been boosted by several high-profile partnership deals, including ties with the Sex and the City movie and the British Book awards.

The majority of the brands surveyed experienced value growth due to price inflation. The take-home confectionery market as a whole grew 6% year on year to reach £2.48bn, and nine of the top 10 brands in the market increased their sales year on year.

This week, Cadbury shifted its global ad account out of Publicis and into Saat-chi & Saatchi Fallon group. A spokesman denied there had been a lack of innovation, adding that its latest data showed growth.

Tuesday Tip No. 62 - What To Do When No Ideas Are Coming

There are loads of books out there with advice on how to have ideas.

It's normally some old shit like "look out the window and write an ad about the first thing you see." Why there aren't more ads about pigeons, I don't know.

There's also a section on what to do when you're stuck, which will be things like "go for a walk" or "have a bath."

I have no bath in my office. And you can't go for a walk in Soho. It's like Frogger out there.

So I thought it might be interesting to make a list of the Top 10 things I actually do - not things one should do - but what I genuinely do, when I'm stuck.

Here they are.

1. Carry on and hope (N.B. this never works)
2. Coffee
3. Look at brief again
4. Go to toilet
5. Look through bottom drawer
6. YouTube (sorry...)
7. Use different pen
8. Try using different pad (switch from lined to plain or vice versa)
9. Call planner
10. Tell Scowling A.D. I can't think of anything

What do you do?

Previous Tips

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Don't Know What It Means But I Like It

New Ford Fiesta commercial through Ogilvy London.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

YouTube Poll Result

The result of last week's poll shows that most of you think it's okay to adapt a film from YouTube into an ad.

Creatives have been 'adapting' for decades - I was wondering if the discussion would throw up anything different about adapting from YouTube. I guess the most interesting point was that it's now much easier for people to find your source material.

In the old days, there might have been gossip that a big ad was ripped from a Slovakian short film, but no one would have seen it. Today, everyone will.

So either be comfortable with that, or do more to disguise your sources.

This week's poll simply asks what type of advertising you're most involved in. Vote now, in the right hand column of this blog.

Previous Polls

How Hard Are You Trying?
How Many Times A Week Do You Have Lunch 'Out'?
Do You Actually Care About Advertising?
What Would you Do If You Weren't Working In Advertising?
Do You Work In Mostly Digital, ATL, or BTL?
Is It Okay To Adapt YouTube Films Into Ads?
Who Is The Best ECD?
How Happy Are You With Your Agency?
Who Do You Prefer To Date?
What's Better - Small Agency Or Big Agency?
Is It The Client Or The Agency Who Makes The Work Good?
Why Is Fallon's Print Not As Good As Their TV?
Is Dave Trott's Thinking Still Relevant?
Which Brand Would You Most LikeTo Work On?
What Do Scamp Readers Do For A Living?
What Time Do You Leave Work?
Does Juan Earn One Million Pounds A Year?
How Much Do You Earn?
What Do You Think Of Our Trade Rag?
Should A Creative Look Creative?
Ad Of The Year 2007
Do Difficult People Do The Best Work?
Who Is Responsible For Ineffectiveness?
Your Personal Success Record
Which Department Is The Most Insane?
What Music Do You Listen To While Working?
What Time Do You Get In?
Who Drinks The Most?
Press v Online
Success Or Glory?
Is Reading Blogs A Waste Of Time?
What's Your Job Satisfaction Level?
What's The Best Kind Of Festive Greeting?
Ad Of The Year 2006
What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Agency Of The Year 2006
Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.61 - How To Avoid Contrivance

An accusation you may commonly hear against an idea is that it's 'contrived.'

To which the natural response is 'but of course it's contrived, it's made-up, it's an advertisement, not real life!'

However, the objection nearly always proves fatal. Although most people can't explain what they mean by 'contrived', it seems to be a massive problem for them.

What I think they mean is 'a coincidence that doesn't feel justified.'

As Creatives, we constantly need to play with reality, to engineer coincidence and unreality, in order to dramatise. But how to do it in a way that seems justified?

Probably the only thing I learned when I was screenwriting which is useful when I'm working on adverts is how to handle coincidence effectively.

It's a well-known principle in screenwriting that the audience will accept any coincidence - no matter how outlandish - as long as it has a negative effect on the protagonist.

In other words, if a movie hero has an immunity to snake poison, and then the treasure just happens to be guarded by snakes, the audience will feel the scene is unsatisfying, too convenient, mere coincidence... contrived.

But if the treasure is guarded by snakes, which happen to be the hero's very worst fear in the entire world... it's no more or less coincidental than before, but the audience reaction is the exact opposite - they find the situation to be dramatic, exciting and fulfilling.

Now let's apply it to advertising.

Lucky, the former More Than insurance Spokesdog, starred in a series of adventures in which, by sheer coincidence, a chain of potentially disastrous events ended up causing no damage. Guess what? Those ads were not good. They felt cheesy. (Sorry, couldn't find on YouTube).

Whereas in 'Drugstore', my favourite advert of all time, there is a similarly massive coincidence - the pharmacist who sells our hero his condoms just happens to be the dad of the girl he's taking out that night. And it's thrilling.

So that's the tip. When you use coincidence, make sure it's causing a problem, not a solution. Then your ads will seem dramatic, and not contrived.

Previous Tips


What Would Howell Henry Do?
What Would Dave Trott Do?
What Would John Webster Do?
What Would Paul & Nigel Do?

How To Crack Any Brief
How To Write Copy
How To Write Endlines
How To Do Virals
How To Write Headlines
How To Do Direct
How To Use Social Media
How To Do Radio
How To Do Press
How To Do TV
VO or Super?
How To Do Digital
How To Do Posters

What To Do When The Ideas Aren't Coming
How To Avoid Contrivance
The Hidden Flaw
Be Funny All The Way Through
How To Know If You've Had An Idea
The Seven Deadly Sins Of Digital
Be Very
Never-Seen-Before Footage
Dicketts' Finger
Two Blokes In The Pub
Play Family Fortunes
Don't Overpolish
Tell The Truth
The Truth Is Not Enough


What Hours Should You Work?
How To Freelance
How To Choose Where To Work
Working Outside London
How To Negotiate Your Salary
How To Get A Pay Rise
Be Wary Of Punding
Challenge The Brief
Be A Person Of Integrity
Playing To Lose
Look At Weird Shit
How To Deal With Rejection
Look Creative
Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Your Idea Has To Be 120%
Don't Behave
Don't Stop Too Soon
Read Jerome's Tips
Read Hugh's Tips

Why You Shouldn't Present To The Client
How To Present To Clients If You Have To
Presenting To The Team
Presenting To The Creative Director
Get Reference

How To Discuss Ideas
Breaking Up
Working Well With Your Partner
Finding The Right Partner

How To Get The Best Out Of Directors
Make Friends With Traffic

How To Get A Job

Don't Write Ads, Write Strategies
Beat The Finger
How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job
How To Turn A Placement Into A Job (Ed Morris view)
How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7)
How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together
How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ
How To Approach Agencies
Should You Take A Bad Job?

Lowe Point

First Stella goes. Now, rumours of redundancies.

I remember going to a crit there, years ago, when they were in Bowater house. The toilets were wall-to-wall marble.

Monday, September 15, 2008

122 Years of Hovis

This is really rather good.

The Creatives have been allowed to depict some of the bleaker bits of our history, not just the upbeat stuff. Kudos to the client for realising how much better that makes it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

YouTube And You

This week's poll is about YouTube.

And it was inspired by comments in my tip on Dave Trott, that lacerated him for adapting Norwegian beat-boxing legend Lasse Gjertsen into Sacla.

So let's find out - is it okay to adapt YouTube clips into ads?

Now, obviously, if you're one of those people who believe it's wrong to rip any book, film, work of art or comedy sketch, then you will vote 'no'.

And if you're one of those people who believe advertising has the right to be inspired by any primary source, then you will probably vote 'yes'.

But what I'm really interested in is the question of whether there is something qualitatively different about adapting a YouTube clip.

Vote now, in the right hand column of this blog.

And if you have a view (please please please, not on 'originality in advertising' in general, we're all sick to death of that, but specifically on the YouTube question), then I would love to hear from you in the comments.

And The Best ECD Is...

Apparently the top brass at Lowe (not Ed Morris, the management guys) mentioned this poll at an all-staff meeting. And I suspect one or two other ECD's (hello Brian & Simon) may have had some kind of campaign going.

Respect to them.

This is a competitive business, and if you're not the kind of person who wants to win - even if it's just a stupid poll on a stupid blog - then you're in the wrong game.

Let's look at the results.

Jeremy Craigen wins. On sheer consistent quality of work, that seems fair.

You could make a strong case too for either Richard Flintham, Robert Saville/Mark Waites, Tony Davidson/Kim Papworth, or Trevor Beattie. Don't forget that, as well as winning a shitload of awards, these guys have also built a business.

Some of the ECD's on this table have not been in the job long enough to really put their own stamp on an agency's output - e.g. Nick Gill, Mark Hunter, Russell Ramsey - so I suspect their vote might look different in a year's time.

I'd also love to see a separate 'value-added' table, like they do for schools. In other words, look at which ECD has improved their agency's work the most, or done the best work relative to the talent at their disposal.

That will have to be for another time I guess.

Previous poll results:
How Happy Are You With Your Agency?
Who Do You Prefer To Date?
What's Better - Small Agency Or Big Agency?
Is It The Client Or The Agency Who Makes The Work Good?
Why Is Fallon's Print Not As Good As Their TV?
Is Dave Trott's Thinking Still Relevant?
Which Brand Would You Most LikeTo Work On?
What Do Scamp Readers Do For A Living?
What Time Do You Leave Work?
Does Juan Earn One Million Pounds A Year?
How Much Do You Earn?
What Do You Think Of Our Trade Rag?
Should A Creative Look Creative?
Ad Of The Year 2007
Do Difficult People Do The Best Work?
Who Is Responsible For Ineffectiveness?
Your Personal Success Record
Which Department Is The Most Insane?
What Music Do You Listen To While Working?
What Time Do You Get In?
Who Drinks The Most?
Press v Online
Success Or Glory?
Is Reading Blogs A Waste Of Time?
What's Your Job Satisfaction Level?
What's The Best Kind Of Festive Greeting?
Ad Of The Year 2006
What's Your Favourite Medium To Work In?
Agency Of The Year 2006
Which Department Is The Most Overpaid?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meet Scott Goodson

I recently learned that Scott Goodson, founder of StrawberryFrog, has a blog - which he describes as “an inspiring blog for people who want to spark cultural movements.”

Cool, I thought. What wisdom will a top international ECD have to share with us?

“Recently I changed tickets from other airlines and decided to give Delta the benefit of the doubt," he writes.

However, all did not go well.

“On 3 separate First class flights in the last month, flights that flew for over 3 hours, I did not receive anything to eat, except for a tiny bag of nuts or pretzels.”

Nightmare. “Don't fly Delta First class,” Scott concludes. “No food, no First Class service.”

Then we have a music review: “VAMPIRE WEEKEND DOESN'T SUCK,” claims Scott. “I really liked this new band. My favorite track is 4. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”

Later. “I'M IN GOA,” he announces. “The flight down to Goa from Mumbai was lovely. Indian-owned Jet Airlines is a remarkable up-and-coming airline that will teach the old AA+Delta+United+Continental gang a thing or two.”

Back to brands. “Brands can no longer put on the clothes of ‘greenness’ without putting their money—and actions—where their mouths are,” Scott believes.

Later, Scott reveals that “The largest country in South America and only slightly smaller than the United States, Brazil is a fascinating, colorful, cosmopolitan mix of style, culture, music, food, and more.”

Whatever. How was the flight?

“Kevin, Chip and I were treated very well on Tam, the national airline of Brazil. Most fortunately, we were met by Ronaldo at the airplane jetty and whisked right through the long passport control line.”


“The first stop was to the hotel Unique, it is one of Sao Paulo's finest boutique hotels. The lobby, the design, the rooms, everything is a joy to be in. We certainly are not going to be roughing it.” Excellent.

Then it’s back to brands again, with Scott reckoning that “All advertisers are now acting in a very competitive market.”

So there we have it.

Another good agency that now will never hire me.

P.S. Here is their brand book. Same old nonsense, but quite nicely presented I thought.

St Luke's

A reader writes: "Have St Luke's ever, I mean EVER done a good ad? Like properly good. It's worth a post, Scampy."

Well, it's certainly true that one doesn't hear much about St Luke's nowadays. Are they any good? Have they ever been?

(comments from earlier thread moved across)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.60 - What Would Dave Trott Do?

This is the third in a series of tips that suggest, if you’re stuck on a brief, you try looking at your problem through someone else's eyes.

Today, Dave Trott - one of the greatest Ad-Men the UK has ever produced.

I like the word Ad-Man, for Dave. Writer doesn't feel right. And nor does Creative. Because as you can read on his brilliant blog, Dave is unashamed about working in advertising, unashamed about selling, and unashamed about doing stuff that is popular. And he doesn't much care about what the industry thinks, as I imagine 'Creatives' and 'Writers' do.

Dave has produced a massive body of work, and would hate to be thought of as having a formula. He doesn't. But although I feel awful reducing his entire career to one tip, nevertheless - just as John Webster was the master of character-creation, and David Abbott was the master of headlines - there is one particular skill at which Dave has no equal. And that is branding.

A proper Dave Trott ad can only be for the brand it is advertising. It's almost as if the man has a pathological fear of misattribution.

Let's start with Ariston.

First thing to notice is that the line can only be used by Ariston. 'Hotpoint and on' doesn't wash. But the real key to its success is that the branding is relevant. That 'and on' is no random piece of rhyme - it powerfully communicates the longevity proposition.

I think Ariston was Dave's finest hour.

(Incidentally, the ad still looks great today, even though it's from the 1980's. Quite radical in its construction too. No logo. No endline. No voiceover.)

Next, Toshiba.

This famous ad was imitated on playgrounds across Britain. The branding is amazingly brutal, but the ad delivers such massive entertainment value, it gets away with it. Plus, once again, the choice of a robot as Tosh (okay, he isn't Tosh, he just says Tosh) reinforces the high-tech design sell of the product.

Finally, Access.

This time around, the product name is not quite as seamlessly integrated as in the last two examples ("Does you does or does you don't take Barclaycard" would be possible, though it wouldn't scan). However, I'm sure you will agree that despite this minor oversight, the ad is once again branded up to the wazoo.

So, what can we learn by reminding ourselves of Dave's branding skills?

Mainly that branding, when used relevantly, isn't just about "making sure people remember the ad is for Brand X" - it makes the sell stronger.

Also that branding need not be a handicap to a commercial ("I can't believe the Client is asking us to mention their brand name twice in the first ten seconds!") Instead of complaining about requests to 'up the branding', try embracing it fully. Maybe it can give you the entire character of the commercial.

One final point - Clients love hyper-branded ads, and it's a trick not many people are pulling at the moment. So if you want to sell more of your work, and stand out from the crowd, it's a 'trick' you may want to consider.

Craft: How To Know If You've Had An Idea; How To Use Social Media; What Would John Webster Do?; What Would Paul & Nigel Do?; The Hidden Flaw; How To Write Copy; Be Funny All The Way Through; How To Do Virals; How To Write Headlines; How To Do Direct; How To Do Radio; How To Do Press; How To Do TV; How To Do Digital; How To Do Posters; Read Iain's Tips; Be Very; Never-Seen-Before Footage; Dicketts' Finger; Two Blokes In The Pub; Play Family Fortunes; Don't Overpolish

Guile: How To Freelance; Beat The Finger; How To Get The Best Out Of Directors; Don't Write Ads, Write Strategies; How To Choose Where To Work; Working Outside London; How To Negotiate Your Salary; How To Get A Pay Rise; Be Wary Of Punding; Challenge The Brief; Tell The Truth; Playing To Lose; Look At Weird Shit; Why You Shouldn't Present To The Client; How To Present To Clients If You Have To; Presenting To The Team; Presenting To The Creative Director; How To Deal With Rejection; Look Creative; Don't Be Afraid To Ask; Your Idea Has To Be 120%; Don't Behave; How To Discuss Ideas; Read Hugh's Tips; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job; How To Turn A Placement Into A Job (Ed Morris view); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ; Make Friends With Traffic; Get Reference; Don't Stop Too Soon; Breaking Up; Working Well With Your Partner; Finding The Right Partner; How To Approach Agencies; Should You Take A Bad Job?

Monday, September 08, 2008

He's A Lumberjack And He's Okay

Creative Director: Axel Chaldecott
Team: Michael Ashley & Dinesh Kapoor
Director: Vince Squibb

I've already stated my admiration for the HSBC campaign.

This ad takes it on another step. The angle of 'different people around the world behave differently' gave rise to classics like Chris Palmer's 'Biker' commercial, but now they've shown they can talk about different people having different opinions, and it doesn't even need the global angle.

There's a lot of humanity in this well-directed ad. And I just love the bear shot...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Writer Writes

Ben's back! With a great post in which he explains how "a double-handed wank-off might just be a path to greater effectiveness." Go read it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Write Stuff

For once a good piece in Campaign today, about ad people who write novels.

They name-check the classics - Fay Weldon, Salman Rushdie, Dorothy L Sayers and Len Deighton, and they also mention James Herbert, though they neglect to include James Patterson (interestingly, ex-Account Man not Copywriter; and supposedly accounted for 19% of all adult fiction sales in the US last year).

From today's crop, they interview the lovely Paul Burke (ex-DDB, now freelance, author of well-crafted 'light read' Father Frank), Meg Rosoff (ex-JWT, author of How I Live Now, impressively disturbing tale), Lorelei Mathias (freelancing at Euro, author of Step On It, Cupid, which I haven't read) and Jonathan Drapes (CDP creative director, author of Never Admit to Beige, which I haven't read but it sounds good, might give it a go).

If you're interested in books and writing and that, then you will definitely be interested in a new blog called Insecticide, in which a London advertising Creative Director who has written a book, blogs about the process of getting it sold.

His reasons for doing it include "It's enjoyable... The possible cash... You can say you're an author, and authors are generally respected, thought to be clever and more interesting than, for example, valve salesmen."

Who is he? For the moment, he wants to remain anonymous. But judging from the quality of writing displayed on his blog, I suspect he won't be for long.

"There's a place for a decent page-turning action novel," he writes. "To compare books to films, although there are many Armageddons, there are also many Terminators. I hope I've written the latter rather than the former, but I definitely haven't written Madame Bovary."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Election Fever Very Mild

Why does hardly anyone from advertising want to be on the D&AD executive committee any more?

This is the list of people who have nominated themselves:

D&AD Executive Elections 2008

Warren Beeby
Anita Brightley-Hodges
Paul Cilia La Corte
Alan Dye
Derek Johnston
Sigi Mayer
Marcello Minale
Paul Owen
Pal Pang
Kate Shaw
Jim Sutherland
Adam White

Simon Learman
Victor Ng

Karen Cunningham

Simon Learman is joint-ECD at McCanns; Victor Ng works at Mother. Both good candidates. But arguably, not Gods. So why are the ‘Gods’ not standing?

“I've served on the exec and I wouldn't bother again," one ECD told me. "It was incredibly frustrating - but I wonder if this is part of the wider disillusionment with D&AD amongst ad creatives.”

A former D&AD President I spoke to stressed that he was honoured to have had the role, but found the organisation “slow and old-fashioned.”

“The last thing I wanted was to achieve fuck-all,” he said. “But that’s what ended up happening.”

And another ECD I got in touch with claimed: “There’s a real weakening going on. I look at the ballot and I haven’t bothered filling it in for the last 3 years.”

Simon Learman’s plans for D&AD seem basically sound - he says: “I’m beginning to wonder if there are too many categories, too many pencils, which means the awards night leaves everyone trying to catch their breath.”

And he worries that while D&AD “runs a superior ship, and is a good and true barometer for creative excellence” it may be “trying to be all things to all people… diluting its worth.”

Crikey, I'm becoming such a journalist. Anyway, what do you think? Are the candidates less good this year? Or do our ECD’s just think they are, in the same way they probably think policemen are getting younger? Let me know.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Where Do All The Old Creatives Go?

The other day, a commenter on this blog wondered: “As a late 30s creative, I'm getting increasingly paranoid about the dearth of 'older' creatives within many agencies. I'd like to know what happens to them. Are they killed off? What are the options open to any creatives unable or unwilling to become senior management?”

And as a supplementary, he asks “is it true that one loses one's creative mojo with age?”

Let’s take the first question first. The answer is there are very few options open to creatives unwilling or unable to become CD’s.

If you want to justify a big salary, you have to take some responsibility. That means creative directing.

If you can’t or won’t take responsibility, why should an agency pay you a big salary?

It doesn’t make sense for them to hang on to older, modestly-paid, ‘flatlining’ creatives when for the same money they can hire people on their way up.

That partially explains the dearth of older creatives. The other explanation is that some people get brought down by all the normal problems that can bring anyone down – drugs, alcohol, illness, wanting to move to Australia. And some people wake up one morning and suddenly realise “Oh my God, we’re just doing adverts… that’s all it is… adverts!” Each year you live increases the odds of one of these happening.

Now on to question two – whether one loses one’s creative mojo with age.

The answer is yes and no. First of all, it takes time to find your mojo in the first place. It probably takes ten years to become good (there’s a theory that it takes ten years to become good at anything).

Then you have your ‘golden window’ – the period after you’ve become good, but before you become complacent (or get brought down by one of the factors listed above). When you’re in it, you must milk that window.

Once you’re out-of-window, your ad writing skills will decline or disappear (many exceptions of course, we’re just talking the average career path here).

But by then, hopefully, you will be in management… and a whole different ball-game begins.

(I’ve moved some of the comments on the previous thread to here, to get us started)