There’s never been a better time to work in advertising
Have you heard it? Have you read it? In the pages of the trade press, in the comments sections of the blogs, the bleating and the moaning, the whimpering, complaining and railing against the injustice of it all?
“It’s not about the creative anymore.”
“Clients are all shit scared.”
“The ECD’s got no spine.”
“Do you remember that time we spunked 2 mill with Frank in the Mojave desert?”
“Where have the budgets gone?”
“What’s the big idea in a bloody website?”
You can’t move in Soho, Noho, Knightsbridge or Shoreditch these days without hearing old Nathan Barley peering miserably backwards through rose-tinted Carreras at an imagined better time.
And the saddest thing about it? It’s not true.
There has never been a better time to work in advertising. The range of solutions available to us, the ability to make stuff for people, improve lives and change the world, all in the name of brands, means that this is the most exciting time there’s ever been to be in this industry. It’s not simple. It requires a breadth of creativity. It forces you to never stop learning. But it’s fun and it’s philosophically much more satisfying than chucking messages at people.
How did this happen? How did the industry change so much, seemingly right under the noses of a bunch of people who clearly still haven’t recognised it?
It was digital wot done it.
Technology has created a space that, ironically, has made us more human. Online we see more, know more, have more friends, like more things and know more about what’s going on in more places around the world.
Technology has meant that the truth is readily available to anyone who might care to find it. So the flim-flam that we used to peddle to people in the name of marketing doesn’t stand up any more. People can easily get to the real story about a brand or product with two clicks of a mouse.
And, as we have become more human, as we have gained access to more information, as the planet seemingly hurtles towards obliteration, we as people, as human beings, have started to look for more meaning behind the decisions that we make, including the products and brands that we buy.
This combination of humanity, truth and meaning means that brands have had to up their game. They’ve had to stop thinking of people as consumers and start thinking of them as humans (perish the thought). They’ve had to embrace transparency. And, most importantly, they’ve had to start to stand for something, play a role in people’s lives and find a shared purpose with the people that they serve.
This is brilliant news for us as advertisers, as creatives even. It means that we get to make things for human beings that improve their lives. It means that we can tell the truth and if there is no meaning in the brands that we work for, we can work with the most interesting people at the top of those companies to find meaning, innovate in the product and create a set of actions for a company to do to become viable in the minds of the hyper-connected citizens of the world.
Consider that for second. Advertising is now an industry that can make the world a better place in lots of different ways that go far beyond entertaining people on a Saturday night on ITV, which, by the way, is still entirely valid but now only a small part of what we can do.
Based on that, based on the fact that we are becoming designers rather than alchemists, based on the empathy and humanity and nobility our current set of circumstances forces us to embody, how can anyone hark back to some mythical golden age when it was all better?
There has never been a better time to work in advertising. The remit of our industry is broader than it has ever been and brilliantly we can make a difference.
We can make a difference to people, to our clients and their bottom lines (and prove it) and, most of all, we can make a difference to ourselves.
It feels good to be in this business right now. The past is history, bits of it bad history. Let’s stop navel-gazing and look forward, with gladness in our hearts and purpose in our minds.
There has never been a better time to work in advertising. Bring on 2014.
George Prest is vice president, executive creative director at R/GA London.
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