Was it better back then ?

In the last fortnight I’ve been shuttling between the past and the future like Doctor Who on speed, who thinks he’s left the gas on.

Past – writing a piece on the 1982 D&AD annual for their Golden Jubilee, which meant researching the “golden generation” of Britain’s mad men, plus going to the book launch of a photographer friend of mine, Jim Lee, who was mega back then (and still doing very cool stuff now).

Future – Speaking about Decoded at the IPA Creative Pioneers event in Hackney House.

Looking at the D&AD annual for 1982 didn’t just make me nostalgic – it made me think. The industry really seemed to be more powerful back then, with viewers preferring the ad breaks to the programmes and British creativity leading the world.

I’m convinced that advertising was  more part of the culture then, than it is now.

How did the industry do this ?

By being uncompromising about creativity and (simultaneously) not taking itself too seriously.

As Frank Lowe said in Campaign recently – “We got into advertising because it was a lark – you got paid lots of money, there were lots of lovely girls and you got a nice, fast car … You just couldn’t believe your luck.”

And I know that Jim Lee would endorse all of that.

Compare now. When, for me, far too many people in the industry feel like vocational estate agents.

Guys – don’t be vocational, be vacational.

Now, for the future. The IPA “Creative Pioneeers” event was set up by the very wonderful Nicola Mendelsohn. There’s a lady who can grab any bull by both horns.

All the talk was of Silicon Roundabout, although I was able to point out that graphene is going to replace silicon very soon, and we needed to find Graphene Roundabout quite urgently.

It was all very stimulating and everybody was, if not embracing the future, at least trying to grope it. I was speaking about the importance of learning code, the creative language of the future.

And the key reason to do this is to bring back a love of, and respect for, creativity.

The internet should be the place where creativity goes ballistic.

Whereas right now, in our industry,  it feels like it’s owned by the number-crunchers.

I love what Paul Polman, the visionary CEO of Unilever said in an interview recently – “There is too much logic (in marketing), too much trying to be rational, too many numbers – with marketing almost being run by the accountants.”

What does he mean, almost ?!

Compare what Barry Schwabsky, art critic for the Nation, said about Jim Lee’s work in 2011…

When I first came upon Jim Lee’s images little more than four years ago, I experienced a kind of shock. Here was something really rare: imagery made under the aegis of the fashion industry, but with content way too hot to be contained by the cool surfaces of desirable apparel or appeased by the anodyne comforts of shopping. Pictures embodying complex, ambivalent metaphors about love, war, identity, conflict. And all done with such a consummate sense of style that they could pass in the fashion world.”

Jim was in the industry … but also outside of it.

I think the best people in any commercial art form love the medium they’re working in – and really f*ck with it at the same time.

In two weeks’ time, I’m going to be talking at another book launch. Erik Kessels, the great advertising maverick, has put together a volume called “Advertising for people who don’t like advertising”.

Love it.

Meanwhile Jim’s wonderful pictures are in a show called “Arrested” at Somerset House 16 May – 5 June.

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