Who communicates with the communicators ?
If I said I was going to write about good manners, you’d probably think “Steve’s gone gaga”.
He’ll be dribbling and taking a cruise round the fjords next.
If I said I was going to write about accessibility, loyalty, responsiveness, open source, you’d probably think – yep, those are the sort of buzz words I’m throwing about in brainstorming sessions.
But they’re the same thing.
And it’s something that people in our industry are better at talking about than actually doing.
Not long ago there was a letter in Broadcast magazine which attracted a lot of attention. An independent programme-maker was complaining that commissioning editors weren’t replying to his emails.
The man in question had produced work that had aired and he was promoting a new documentary he’d just finished.
In part, the letter read like this:
“Four out of the five people I contacted – and bear in mind I went straight to the right people – did not bother to reply to me, even after I had supplied them with a four-minute clip to view.
“One company, after showing initial interest, then could not be bothered to contact me after they had viewed the clip …
“I find it absolutely pathetic that these people cannot even be bothered to type out an email that would take the best part of 30 seconds, to reply to me.”
Is this ringing any bells for you ?
Is there a pile of unresponded-to emails in your closet ?
All of us are slaves to a communication medium – email – which just doesn’t seem to work anymore.
Through a combination of bad manners, and being over-stretched – the notion of response, of two-way communication, just isn’t happening.
Here’s part of an email that a young student over from South America sent to me recently, asking how he could show his work to agencies …
“Some people have suggested to me to get attention by being crazy (sending them a cake, standing outside their offices in the rain and stay there until they ask you to come inside, stuff like that), other people advise me to send them an e-mail and insist until they reply …”
And later he wrote to me …
“I must admit that when I try to contact senior teams or CDs and don’t hear back from them, I wonder if it’s because they don’t find the work relevant/good . Although I believe in my ideas (I have them in my portfolio for a reason), this lack of response sometimes makes me question the quality of my work. … It certainly makes me wonder if there’s something wrong going on.”
There’s definitely something wrong going on, if the way to get your work seen is to stand outside in the freezing rain.
We advise our clients’ brands to be accessible and responsive – but how accessible and responsive are the agencies doing the advising ?
Now, we’re just coming up to that time of year when students look for their first jobs.
I would argue that creative talent is the key ingredient of ad agencies – and getting the right talent in is crucial.
(Nicola Mendelsohn, the IPA President, would certainly agree with her brilliant Creative Pioneers initiative.)
But pretty soon something like 12,000 students will be graduating as potential creatives.
And there are maybe 250 jobs, at tops, in London, Bristol and Manchester.
(And when I say jobs, I mean the slavery and idiocy of “placements”, the 2-month “on approval” stints where some agencies pay students £2 per hour and some pay them nothing at all.)
On one hand, the problem for these students is exactly the same as the commercial problem facing agencies. To wit, how do you stand out in a world of massive over-supply ?
(Plus, how do you make any money out of this thing ?)
For agencies the answer might be – be different, be great.
Same for students.
But if the students come knocking with their fresh ideas, will anybody answer the door ?
Or will they have to stand outside in the rain ?
With a cake that’s falling apart.
That just seems downright rude to me.
You might say it toughens them up, but actually creativity isn’t about toughness – it’s about skill and originality.
You wouldn’t say “well Jane Austen fundamentally fails as a novelist, because she wouldn’t get very far on an assault course.”
Or “Andy Warhol was a terrible artist, he’d be useless in the front row of a scrum.”
Or would you ?
People will come up with all sorts of crap to avoid facing the truth.
The truth is, this industry needs fresh creative talent – and the fact is that it makes it as hard as possible for that talent to come in.