By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 17 December 1999 12:00AM
Herewith a hippy millennium-type column in which I detail foolishly
how much Campaign loves you. Normal sceptical service will be resumed on
13 January (but don’t forget Campaign’s Hall of Fame, the Top 100
British Ads of the Century out this Monday, 20 December).
’I don’t know how you can write about the advertising business, isn’t it
just full of w!*k@*s?’ is a question I often get, along with ’what on
earth is the Nationwide/First Direct/Dunlop/Honda/ Smirnoff (delete
where applicable) ad about?’, ’are bad ads made deliberately really bad
so that they will become cults?’ and ’I was watching telly last night,
and I saw two ads that featured sex in them, how do you account for this
Normally the ’w@*k**s’ question is followed by an ’is advertising really
just sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll?’ It’s posed in a ’God, I’d love to be
a w!@k** too’ tone - which is funny because many of those asking already
are. Does champagne, Nurofen (my favourite brand) and a karaoke duet
with Tammy Wynette count?
There are arseholes, bastards and worse in the ad industry, but does
anyone really believe there are not in the restaurant industry,
retailing, the civil service, management consultancy, teaching or
journalism? The vast majority of advertising people we encounter are
decent, hard-working, clever, talented, personable and fun. I’m not sure
there are too many businesses you could say that of.
However, a surprising number also manifest a curiously ambivalent
attitude to what they do. Gone, hopefully, are the days when most of our
leading creative directors were actually frustrated novelists or film
Those who survived the last recession were given plenty of opportunity
to abandon a sinking ship - if they stayed, they wanted to. But many
junior agency staff today find their jobs a slog, and are far removed
from the end product. Their kicks come from the environment in which,
and the people with whom, they work. It can’t be healthy.
And it will get worse. Technological and global business convergence
mean this process of removal from the actual doing will only
The risk is that hundreds of people in advertising and media buying will
become glorified clerks with scant opportunity to make a difference.
With alternatives ranging from the City to management consultancy and
dotcom ventures within a near full-employment labour market, attracting,
retaining and developing talent will become the ad industry’s greatest
How do you make the job as sexy as the people and the environment?
It can be done. Particularly if we all stop banging on about the good
old days and embrace the new challenges of the digital era. People will
inevitably take stock of their lives over the forthcoming holiday. And
the new year will be a time for bold new ventures. Life is not a
rehearsal. Hippy Christmas.
Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk