The problem with creative people

Out of all the myriad aspects of my portfolio life – consulting at the top level, guiding agencies to winning huge chunks of new business, being with Decoded on its fascinating journey, putting out the bins, picking fluff from my belly button – one of my favourites is running creative workshops.

While giving a workshop recently, I had some interesting conversations with the creative folk. As usual, a lot of them felt very marginalised.

I just don’t get it. What’s the point of advertising, if it has no confidence in the people who make the products ?

Are creatives just bolshy over-grown kids who don’t understand the commercial realities of the business they’re in ?

Don’t answer that.

Ok, sometimes they are. But I honestly think that view is dangerously prevalent among nearly all agency leaders these days.

Maybe we marginalise creatives in the hope that – if we protect them from the crap – they might somehow change the industry ?

Maybe Richard Branson will fly Trevor Beattie to outer space on a Gloucestershire Old Spot.

It’s interesting that creatives get hardly any training or support. One of the reasons I co-founded Decoded was to help creatives understand the digital world better, but nearly all agencies send their account people first.

Like favourite children.

And I’d love to know the percentage of people involved in IPA meetings or projects who are creative.

Virtually every project you work on in an agency has at least two or three creative teams working on it. In HHCL, we allocated one creative team per project. I didn’t trust any system which allowed account people to nip around from one team to another, like a French president on a moped.

Hire good creatives, and trust them.

But of course the great advantage to agencies of creative people is how easy it is to exploit them.

If they’re working on interesting projects, creative people will work for almost nothing. They actually love doing it so much, that the work alone is rewarding enough.

(How many account people could you say that about ?)

And, in the endless repetitive charade of creative presentations – where the account director will come back from a meeting in which the client has bought the safest idea, but asked that it be made more exciting – they will encourage the creative people to do more work, playing on their natural perfectionism and indeed their love of just solving problems.

Great creative people can always keep going, can always find new answers – but that isn’t the point. The point is to MAKE something.

I remember Andy Berlin, one of the geniuses of the US ad scene (at one stage he’d had his name on three different agencies, all of which had won Agency of the Year) telling me a story once.

A client of his kept saying of every idea which was presented to him “It’s good, but is there a better one ?”

He finally said this to Andy in the pre-production meeting. The production company were, understandably, a bit non-plussed. Andy paused and then asked the client a question.

“Was your wife the best-looking woman you could have married ?”

There just comes a time when you have to make a decision. And the people who succeed in life don’t agonise like twats over every stage of the process.

The big irony in all this is this.

Keeping going back with creative ideas endlessly isn’t just a massive waste of resources. It’s also the most demoralising way you could treat your staff.

So they’ll leave.

And anyone who runs a company these days knows that finding and keeping the best talent is THE biggest problem.

So it’s time to make a commitment to your creatives:

Believe in your creative people, and believe in your creative ideas.

If you can’t do that, what’s the point of working in advertising ?

  • re_present

    The problem with creative people is not the creative people, it’s those around them. Well said. so what do we do about it? #designvalues

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