Advertising is still a land of opportunity for daring and dogged directors
A view from Jim Gilchrist

Advertising is still a land of opportunity for daring and dogged directors

Ignore the naysayers. Opportunism and tech advances will be vast and fortune will undoubtedly favour the bold among us.

If I were a young director or creative looking to break into advertising, I’d be shitting myself. It seems to be an echo chamber of doom and bloody gloom; grandees of the industry navel-gazing about the good old days, bemoaning everything from a lack of good clients to not being paid enough to not having your name read out at awards ceremonies. Have a word.

If you rotate back to the real world for five seconds and maybe peruse the job section, you’ll quickly realise that we are actually pretty bloody privileged. What a rich life of opportunities this industry offers.

I’m 36 and have been directing for 11 years, so am by no means a veteran, but in that time I have worked with the fastest man on the planet, a Beatle, loads of amazing footballers and even Loyd Grossman. I have been to some amazing places and had my fair share of truly breathtaking experiences. In short, it’s been pretty fucking good.

If I were asked if advertising is a good industry to work in, why would my answer be anything other than "Hell, yeah"?

Sure, it’s an evolving industry where the tectonic plates of production and agencies are shifting, but I’m sure what will emerge is a beautiful new playing field where we get to make the rules.

It only takes one piece of work like "Balls" or "Gorilla" or Old Spice to change the face of advertising for a decade.

The opportunities might come from different places. For young directors, the emergence of in-house production might mean the openings materialise from agencies.

Conversely, for young creatives, production companies might have a need for more creation to complement their execution expertise and work more directly with clients. The truth is – who knows?

If you’re starting out, my advice would be: first, come on in – the water’s fine. But be daring, be positive, have your own voice and stick to it.

At the moment, it’s like a game of chess where the real pieces have yet to be played. But, sure as eggs is eggs, when the dust settles, we’ll still be telling stories for brands that want to flog stuff. The how, why and where might change, but the opportunism born from the new dawn – and, indeed, the tech advances – will be vast and fortune will undoubtedly favour the bold among us. That creates a very exciting environment for young guns.

I was lucky enough to be on the D&AD Next Director jury and was inspired by much of the work. While I don’t think the best thing won (I did try, Dorian and Daniel), the overall standard was great. All the entrants were less than two years into their career, and the level of craft and finish was really rather good. That said, the formulas and styles of much of it was rather derivative of yesteryear, and that bothered some of the jurors.

I think, in part, you have to look at the logical next steps for the entrants – they want to get into production companies so have stuck to the original formulas to showcase their talents. That’s OK, but I don’t think advertising is crying out for more of the same.

I’m always on the lookout for work from new directors, and two spots in particular have really stood out. Pedro Martín-Calero’s "Up" for Honda demonstrated amazing craft and direction for a young director, and Max Sherman’s short film "But I’d really have to kill you" showed lovely performance and timing.

So, if you’re starting out, my advice would be: first, come on in – the water’s fine. But be daring, be positive, have your own voice and stick to it, even if you lose a job or commission because of it. Ultimately, it will serve you better in the long game.

Never be a difficult dickhead – there are too many good people who aren’t. Most importantly, shoot loads – technology means that there has never been an easier time to be able to make stuff. Go see creative teams whose work you admire and ask – beg if you have to – for scripts from their bottom drawer (creatives, look out for the young shooters who interest you and ask them to shoot some test ads or shorts together), try new things, maintain those relationships, grow and find more interesting opportunities along the way.

The more you make, the better you get – so practice, practice, practice. Oh, and have fun doing it – it’s better than doing a proper job.

Jim Gilchrist is a director at Outsider
@jimgilchrist

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