Monday, April 06, 2009

Childish Labour

This is a presentation I gave at a WARC conference the other day.

I've added some extra text, so hopefully it should communicate without me talking it through.

The goal was to give Clients, Planners and Agency managers some tips on how to get more out of Creatives, by means of an analogy that I hoped would help them understand us better, and would suggest some different behaviours in how they deal with us.

The analogy is that Creatives are a bit like children - both in the positives (curious, imaginative, playful) and the occasional challenges (sulky, fussy etc).

Let me know what you think, and then I can tweak the presentation... should anyone be foolish enough to ask me to do another.


Unknown said...

Interesting and overall pretty fair. Especially about briefs and creative environments.
Couple of's now almost compulsory that agencies need to work with each other - DM with PR with Advertising with Retail with Digital....and often even within an agency. That natural competitiveness which you talk about needing to be harnessed in place of co-operativeness, then becomes a weight on the project. For senior agency people trying to create a single minded team, or for clients who work with multiple agencies, a lack of co-operation ends up as a logjam of childishness, stubbornness ...and invariably as simply bad behaviour. It often reminds me of the famous saying - anything can be achieved if you don't care who takes the credit.

Second, it was my understanding that Gorilla didn't do that well. Galaxy outsold it by a considerable margin. It drove awareness but didn't provide business success. Maybe not an ideal visual to show to planners and clients?

Anonymous said...

You the forgot a few: 'we like to fiddle with our willies' and 'do sick down our fronts and even poo our pants (at awards do's), and like all kids, 'we love to copy the bigger, better kids'

Anonymous said...

The brainstorm point is particularly interesting. Account handlers and planners tend to enjoy coming up with stuff in meetings because they're often judged on how well they perform on the spot (and it may be the only outlet for their creative instincts.) Creative teams stay quiet when they're judged on the work they actually produce.

Anonymous said...

author of the scamp blog

bit weird.

Manic Miner said...

im not sure i agree with your point about briefs scamp.

as long as briefs are clear and concise thats fine. they don't need to be funky or visual.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying treat us like children? Speak for yourself Scamp, or maybe grow up a little. In fact I think that was one of the most patronizing presentations I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I would have quoted Jung's:
"There's nothing more serious than a child playing..."

The Voice of Reason said...

Don't really agree with your presentation Scamp. I feel its a cliche. In reality we are all different and we all work in different ways. Find out what helps you work...and then exploit it.

Anonymous said...

nice dig at Ogilvy though

that french saying said...

I know where you're coming from with the analogy.

I think we're child-like in ability to soak up lots of info, which we then spit back out in ad form.

Is it more to do with a search for approval and identity, than to do with 'powerlessness' though?

Anonymous said...

nice presentation. should clue in the clueless. the child analogy works. because it's true. what we do is play.

agree with "author of the scamp blog" comment. better wording perhaps. maybe use your blog logo.

stephen, any time there is a conspicuously popular fun ad, there emerges an army of bean counting dullards determined to prove that fun doesn't work in advertising. always happens. don't pay no mind to them.

Anonymous said...

Spot on with the child thing.

Course it's right. This is why most good creatives are blokes. They remain boys. Women tend to grow up and mature.

Creating ads is a very childish thing.

Unknown said...

this type of crap makes my blood boil. it's idiots like you that give the abundance of remedial suits in this business the complete wrong idea about the creative process. i don't think i've ever read such patronising shite about creatives written by a creative! unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

A tired cliche. What about the other thing you forgot 'and just like kids we all have to grow up some time'

I dont mean that this should take away curiosity and creativity but growing up should mean we play better with others and care about serious stuff not just little awards.

Anonymous said...

God i hope my creative director reads this.

Anonymous said...

well done by the way. simple and (therefore) effective

simon said...

I must admit I lean more towards Anonymous Said, when he said he found it a little on the patronising side.

I can imagine a senior client making the exact same presentation to his junior staff called, So, what are Creatives?

There's a big difference between being childish and retaining some child-like qualities. Plus to imply we're no more than children allows us to be marginalised within the industry.

Why should we be allowed to sulk, refuse to work with people, need constant stimulation supplied by work mates?

That kind of thinking leads to creatives being allowed to think they are superior and exempt from any level of maturity. And we all know where that leads - premiership footballers.

Would it be accurate to describe Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett David Abbott, Charles Saatchi, John Webster, Paul Arden, Dan Weiden etc as childish?

I would be more inclined to describe them as incredibly smart, passionate people who had the ability and intelligence to convince and inspire people into believing that what they 'saw' wasn't silly, stupid or childish, but powerful, inspiring and effective. The kind of stuff worth investing huge amounts of money in.

Anonymous said...

children are naturally lazy too.
maybe you could have a picture of the Sony Balls and talk about nicking ideas from youtube

Anonymous said...

I think it reinforces the belief that creatives only care about having fun and winning awards and if they're not doing either of those, then they sulk.

We are professionals who solve business problems and should be treated as such. Not tiptoed around in case we get upset.

I'm 30 not 5, and I want to be treated like a grown up and not patronised with colourful briefs and kid gloves.

The o&m thing is spot on though.

Anonymous said...

not bad. particularly the bit about brainstorms. The only "creatives" who like brainstorms are the freeloaders. People who are good at ideas hate brainstorms.

Bentos said...

I think if I were not creative and I saw this, I'd want to slap the next creative I saw.

Anonymous said...

hey stephen 2.14.

If we're not meant to be competative and should be giving our ideas away in brainstorms and not worrying about credit then on what basis are we to be judged? The only people who do fine out of a "cooperative" brainstorm culture are management who take the credit for everything anyway. The most fertile creatives finish up giving stuff away, the less fertile creatives get to look good by association. That's not efficient.

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah on the competitiveness point. Last agency I worked at 'Brainstorming Sessions' started to take over the working day. Sure, anyone can think of a good idea - my mum, that guy eating his face in the pub, anyone. But I totally believe that 2 people locked away in an office for an afternoon will produce far better ideas than 20 talking over each other in a communal wankfest.

George said...

'So why does every brief look like this?'

Because the people that give it to you are not creative. It is your job to turn the mundane A4 brief into something more arresting.

Is the kid in the yellow top from the Attention Span pic you?

Anonymous said...

it's going well so far Scamp :(

mm said...

do me a favour scamp, move the text box on slide 15 - I can't quite make out mum of the year's tat.

Matt said...

"This is a presentation I gave at a WARC conference the other day."

Did you honestly give this talk Scamp? Or have you done this to stimulate debate?

I understand the angle you've taken, but christ almighty you make us all sound like pricks. We are a unique breed, granted. But this feels like a massive piss take.

Bodecker said...

I did a presentation a bit like this a few months back to a bunch of French creative directors who were over here in the UK to see how we do things.

My slide show centred around the idea that creatives are like cheese. I think that I had a list of about 27 cheeses in all, some were French, just to keep the audience happy. I've lost the show but I still remember some of it
Creatives are like....
...Stilton - A bit smelly, but that's because a team is usually holed up in a room together with no ventilation

...Gorgonzola - Soft

... Cheddar - Orange

The French weren't quite getting the analogies the way that most English would. And if I'm honest I think it would have been better if I'd gone down the road of some other food stuff... more French based.

simon said...

It's a bit of the subject Scamp, so I apologise, but to those people who slag off brainstorms and Anonymous Said 4.38 in particular. Brainstormings work, when the egos are smaller than the project. Don't believe me? Want some proof. Okay, here it is - The Simpsons, The Sopranos, The Wire. Six Feet Under, Deadwood, etc etc.

And art director and a writer hidden in a room was better than them both sitting on different floors and Bernbach was a genius to see that, but it was 60years ago. Think about that, what other thinking from 60 years ago hasn't been bettered.

Let go of your ego and grow up.

Unknown said...

Old school thinking.
I agree that two people in a room is the best way to fill up 30 seconds of tv time or a full page in the press.
But advertising has moved on.
It's about the big idea. And a room full of smart and creative people thinking on a clearly defined and focussed problem will always come up with bigger and better ideas than two kids in an office.

James Stevens said...

Cracking presentation that sums up Creatives brilliantly :o) Love your work sire.

Interesting that the final slide uses Cadbury's Gorilla ad as a symbol of success. Great ad, yes. But did it help sales?


Angus said...

"Would it be accurate to describe Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett David Abbott, Charles Saatchi, John Webster, Paul Arden, Dan Weiden etc as childish?"

Excellent comment.

Anonymous said...

how long it take u to write this?
it feels like something a jr account exec cld write
it's just a load of old cliches + stupid excuses to be a creative w*nker

i can't believe this is serious, right?
it's ridic out of touch no?

Anonymous said...

Careful we don't end up looking like spoilt brats rather than the cute little kids we really are.

Anonymous said...

Agency suits, planners and top management already think all creatives are spoilt brats (children), and don't take us seriously. In really important meetings, creatives are never invited. This presentation reinforces all that negative shit. Please, don't perpetuate these myths. You dont have to act like an uncontrollable child to do good work.

Fuck, I wish I was around when creatives wore suits to work.

Anonymous said...

Scamp you cack monkey.
I see a career in account management beckoning.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! Absolutely amazing! There isn't one slide that I found offensive, patronizing or untrue. Or that I could disagree with. There may be a few exceptions to the rule, but I believe that when you've "grown" into becoming this particular exception to the rule, you should retire from being a creative. The Creative World has no place for fully grown people. I'm personally afraid of that day. And, as a previous commenter said before, I wish more creative directors were aware of how we truly are.

Anonymous said...

I am a suit and most creative teams I have ever worked with like to be treated like adults. To push your analogy, adults don't tell kids things that they think they don't need to know or they think might upset them. So presumably you are advocating suits giving creative teams false deadlines and wrapping up clients feedback in cotton wool?

Personally I tend to think honesty is the best policy becasue once creatives find out you have lied to them then you can never regain their trust. If you prefer to be treated like children then leave your stockings hanging outside your office and if you are good santa suit will leave you some client feedback and maybe some sweeties.

Anonymous said...

I think this just gives more ammunition to those ego-bloated suits who see us as their pet monkeys.

"Ha ha! Look at them, playing with their pens! Bless their cotton socks from an online store in Japan that cost £90 a pair because they've got a manga cow whose udders make the toes.

They really are just like children. Look, it says so here."

Anonymous said...

Children see the world with a simplicity that breaks conventions and gets to the heart of a matter quickly. Which is what all advertising/ communication should be hoping to do. But we're not children. We're grown ups who have to learn how to think like children, when the moment commands. It's not about being random or childish. It's about doing what Picasso did.
And my beef with brainstorming sessions is that they very rarely employ thinking time. Two people sitting in a room thinking deeply about something is better than 10 sitting in a room shouting out the first thing that comes into their heads. Don't get me wrong, sometimes the thing we say instinctively without thinking can be brilliant. But nine times out of ten it ends up like a load of badly thought out kack.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scamp.

Talking about childish labour, what do you think about placement labour? Do you think its right to pay junior teams on placement anything less than minimum wage?

I am on the placement circuit and the money we get paid is ridiculous. I am currently on 100 pounds a week at an agency which is in your top 5 creative scale.

Most rent in london a week is more than this, how do creative directors think these placement teams live?

Do you not think the powers to be with in this industry need to sit down together and agree that this can no longer go on and we will be paid minimum wage for a 9 hour day? even though most work a 12 hour day.

What are your opinions?

Anonymous said...

Way off the mark Scamp. Stand against the wall with your hands on your head. F minus.

Agree about Canary Wharf though.

Anonymous said...

"Fuck, I wish I was around when creatives wore suits to work."

What's stopping you wearing a suit to work?

Scamp said...

Got an e-mail from SlideShare this morning... I guess those who don't like my presentation will be further enraged to see it finding a wider audience...

Hey simonveksner!

Your presentation is currently being featured on the SlideShare homepage by our editorial team.

We thank you for this terrific presentation, that has been chosen from amongst the thousands that are uploaded to SlideShare everday.

Congratulations! Have a Great Day!,

- the SlideShare team

Actually they sound quite infantile themselves don't they. Must be very creative people...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an automatically generated spam mail Scamp that your innate narcissism has interpreted as complimentary.

mm said...

they also chose 'Meet Lillie'.

AdLand Suit said...

I don't really know how to take this - it's clearly deliberately inflammatory to a certain degree, and I tip my hat to you for that, Scamp. But isn't it also a bit too close to the truth for comfort?

The infantilisation of creative teams is one of my biggest frustrations in this industry - of course it wouldn't be accurate to describe Bernbach, Weiden, etc, as childish, but I'm also fairly confident that they will, at some point in their lives, have picked up the tab at Lunch or sorted out their own cabs. On a recent shoot I took the team to a strip club, and I felt like an over-stretched father at Disneyland, as they ran around, demanding more money, victims of of some kind of Soho-based adult-sugar high.

Having the ability to view the world with childish wonder, and not to be constrained by the sort of crap that we Suits have to worry about is of course an enormous part of a Creative's job, and I would never want to work with a Creative that didn't care enough about his ideas to sulk occasionally, however he or she chose to express that. But does that mean you have to be children, unable to function without a supporting Suit or Producer to hold your hand? Of course it doesn't.

So, Scamp - what's your point? Do you want to be treated like a child? Surely not. Do you want more pretty pictures on your briefs? Possibly - it's certainly no bad thing to put pressure on the Suits and Planners to do a bit of thinking for themselves. Are you just trying to get out of brainstorms? That would make sense.

Or, and I hardly dare hope, are you hoping to offend some Creatives to the extent that they start paying for their own lunch, ordering their own cabs, taking responsibility for their own actions, and bringing their own sodding money to strip clubs?

NewB said...

To be as concise as you've tried is laudable but I think in the process you have fallen back on tired cliches.

In his TED talk "The powerful link between creativity and play", I think Tim Brown covered the child-like 'play' creativity you were looking for.

People have perhaps latched on to the more negative points that came later in your presentation. They are a touchy area as there's a perception that the clients, planners and agency managers types you were presenting to would have lapped up these stereotypes that allow them to walk a bit taller than us.

I agree with many of the comments above in that I hope this is not a true representation of us (myself) and doesn't look hard enough at who we are or what makes they way we work great.

I can't deny that I had some of these characteristics but as I have grown as a working adult, I certainly hope I'm not the primadonna I feel I may have been as a young creative.

The idea of the best creatives being fussy is perhaps misleading. It conveys the idea of a petulant child. Perhaps it would be better to say that creatives have a strong instinct for what works. I can't think of a quote but this is covered well in "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell.

GOUT-LEGS said...

i'm sure you had the best intentions, but it's a little insulting to be honest.
along with art, design and various other 'creative' disciplines, i studied marketing and business.
and most other creatives i know did too.

it basically makes us all out to be cunts who don't understand grown up stuff like marketing and are best left colouring in pretty pictures.

i'm sure the guys in your department are well chuffed with you.

Scamp said...

Not sure if I have space to defend myself against every single one of these attacks!

Let me just say that without me presenting it, the tone of voice may not be coming across as intended. Let me reassure all offended Creatives, I was not slagging us off.

Sure, there's a bit of light humour in there. But in most of the examples that have caused offence, I was trying to take a perceived negative of Creatives (e.g. 'fussy') and explain why it's actually a positive (fussy = high standards & strong personal taste).

brake dollinge said...

mm, disingenuous much?

I think this is a ploy to secure CAKES and BALL POOLS and MORE TIME and FUNCTIONLESS PLASTIC TOYS from KIDROBOT on EXPENSES.

curiously, I often think clients are like children. they need to be told what's good for them, even when they don't want to eat their broccoli before it's been re-edited all wrong and had the music ruined. and we'll stamp our feet and cry and hold our breath until they see sense.

Scamp said...

To 9.29, who is on the placement circuit, your questions deserve a fuller answer than I can give in a comment. I will do a post on it soon and we discuss it in proper depth.

Mister Gash said...

Seems to me that some people feel they have been insulted by being described as 'children'.

Sir Ken Robinson has become a personal hero of mine. Dave Trott has already blogged about him. And if you haven't heard him talk please do:

He says that you can only be original if you are not afraid of being wrong. He contends that all children start without fear, but the education system beats creativity out of them as it progressively instills fear.

If - as a creative - you can think like a child, and be unafraid of being wrong - then you can be truly original.

Sounds to me like Scamp's reference to 'children' in a creative sense is - in Sir Ken's eyes at least - a compliment.

You want patronising? Tell me why Campaign - still the organ of record for our business - insist on referring to the industry as "adland' like it's a kissing cousin of Disney or something equally fluffy. Sticks in my craw every time I read it.

Anonymous said...

The only thing for certain is that creatives don't like having the mirror turned on them....

Anonymous said...

I can see where you were going with this analogy, but showing it in this form has shifted the tone with which you seem to have meant it.

I am a creative. And yes, in many ways i try to remain 'forever young', much as you've described. The sense of adventure, the playfulness etc. But i think you've gone a touch too far with the comparison, to the point of making us seem like spoilt brats. I wouldn't like for us to be perceived in this way.

I would like us to be perceived as professionals who try to inject passion, energy, playfulness and excitement into their work. Not a petty child. Perhaps the actual presentation conveyed this more, but sadly your post doesn't.

I don't want to be spoon fed, or for people to tailor their words with me because they fear i might have a tantrum. Tell me straight. I can take it. I'm a big boy now.

Anonymous said...

The mere fact that so many people are crying on here confirms that most creatives are children. To be upset by that presentation, you've got to be some kind of crying prick. Stop taking it literally you mid-20s skinny jeaned tits. You're the same people that keep knocking Fallon, Cabral etc. You ARE kids.

Anonymous said...

Should have titled it "Why Creative Departments are Shrinking and being Marginalised". Go could you have made a better case for the dismantling of the creative structure!? Why would any client entrust their business to a bunch of spoiled children after reading this?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:46 PM

Whether you believe this or not is really up to you.
There's no need to throw your rattle out of the pram.

All we're trying to do here is explain that treating us like children is really not the way to go, even if there are some similarities in the way we employ our imagination.

It's a fair comparison in many ways, we're just trying to establish where it ends so that planners and account men don't start taking this too literally and pissing all the creatives off.

Scamp's idea is fine, it's just executed in a slightly undermining way, and i'm sure he will take this feedback in the spirit with which it was intended.

Anonymous said...

I like it. Sums us all up rather well.

Anonymous said...

I think there's an erroneous blur between the childish and the childlike in this presentation, which has largely laudable aims. As Picasso said,
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”

Childish isn't good. Cunts on vintage BMXs aren't creative. Capturing the lucidity and openness and innocence of the child's thought processes is the aim.

vaidy said...

I read many of the comments. I agree, in essence, with what Nigel, Simon and Matt have said. However, let me share my views.

What distinguishes a good and successful copywriter is he does good work, great work if you prefer, and delivers it on time, as we speak at the time when any campaign is developed and readied for public consumption, although only time will tell how effective it proves to be in terms of the results it gets for the advertiser. This distinction, as is obvious, applies not just in the case of a copywriter, but with any professional who is engaged in a strategic task and, guided by certain information and insights, comes up with solutions that address a problem. The factors in the equation may differ from case to case, yet the task is essentially the same.

So, why glorify the class of copywriters? Did the mothers of copywriters, inadvertently or intentionally, feed their copywriters-to-be sons and daughters with anything special? (Whether those mothers are happy about their progeny having become copywriters is quite another matter, although interesting without doubt.)

Can any visitor to an ad agency instantly identify the copywriters, without any clues that their attire or attitude may provide? Someone said ‘unique breed’ – what is unique? If you are in a party, is the one with the best and the smartest lines always and automatically a copywriter? Will a copywriter’s kiss stand out in a blind test?

Yes, copywriters are often admired, envied and even worshipped. All right, it feels nice, but we don’t have to take the attention too seriously. And, when some smug ones insouciantly and blithely declare that they have huge fun being copywriters and are then quizzed about their handsome pay, they say, ‘Oh you didn’t let me finish. It is fun plus loads of hard work, imagination and creativity.’ I think it was a case of titular usurpation when we in Advertising began to call some of our colleagues ‘Creatives’. Quite conceivably, any industry can have ‘Creatives’ among their personnel.

Talking of being like children, it is indeed a good thing to feel like a child. When an adult has a bit of the child in him, it shows that he is still emotionally vulnerable, and feels joy in the simple and self-same things over and over, as when you pass by your colleague some fifty times in a day and smile at her every time, with warmth, joy and happiness. That kind of innocence is truly beautiful. Any other is manipulation, blackmail and, sadly, pathetic.

Anything commercial can never be really creative. One step towards being creative is to try to remove the ‘copy’ from the description and become a writer. Even a little poem or a short story would be a genuinely creative effort. It is only when one is totally focussed on the effort, which is not contaminated by the possibility or expectation of any reward other than its fulfilment, one feels truly creative. Awards are but inadequate reflections of the effort, and could well symbolize defeat more than victory.

‘Make tasks fun, and we’ll work all day and all night!’ ‘Harness our childishness!’ With these and other injunctions – or are these pleas? - Scamp is probably telling his ‘other’ colleagues: Be creative. For, presumably, Scamp believes they have it in them to be creative. But why ask, if you are creative enough to create it all yourself?

Anonymous said...

12:49 PM

Well said. I think that settles it.

Gordon Torr said...

Shock, anger, confusion – hooray! Scamp’s hit a nerve – again! There’s nothing for that trauma, so just a few things to clear the mind.

1. Not all children like being children. My ten-year-old boy is obsessed with Kapilands, capitalism-lite for kids who want to be like Bernard Madoff.
2. Some kids are irritating know-it-alls who’ll grow up to be planners who don’t know when to leave well alone. Think Lisa.
3. It’s possible to grow up to be a real bastard without losing your sense of curiosity and wonder. Some famous adults spring to mind.
4. Here’s that list of creative personality traits in full, the ten “non-social” traits first, then the seven “social traits”: openness to experience, fantasy-oriented, imaginative, impulsivity and lack of conscientiousness (not true of entrepreneurs and scientists), anxiety, affective illness, emotional sensitivity, drive and ambition. Then norm-doubting, non-conformity, independence, hostility, aloofness, unfriendliness and lack of warmth.
5. Which are just 14 of the reasons why brainstorms don’t work.
6. Ah, Simon, “The Simpsons Defence”! Here’s that cosy notion of a yoghurt-filled room of brilliant writers in collaboration heaven, pinging ideas off each other with the adrenalin-fuelled facility of brand managers brainstorming the name for a new hemorrhoid cream. They’re riffing on a theme, Simon, don’t you get it? They’re session musicians, not composers. They’re second generation writers hoping to get a piece of the Economist campaign in their books, not inventing it. Matt Groening didn’t invent The Simpsons in a brainstorm with Fox marketing executives. It’s time to get over it. Collaboration doesn’t work unless there’s an idea on the table to start with.
7. That Ken Robsinson story about the six-year-old. “What are you drawing, Suzie?” asks the teacher. “God,” says Suzie. “But no one knows what God looks like, Suzie.” Suzie: “They will in a minute.”
8. Show me a man who doesn’t play with his willie and I’ll show you a picture of Cheney’s soul.

Someone should write a book about this stuff. Oh yes, I just did.