Do agencies still have the resources for creativity?
A view from Jeremy Lee

Do agencies still have the resources for creativity?

Over a recent lunch, a brilliant but unorthodox creative director (whose blushes I'll spare) told me that what worries him the most about the industry is the dearth of fellow mavericks, particularly in creative departments. Picking over sticky toffee pudding (which might give some indication of his vintage), he sighed that he wanted to meet more people who were a bit more beatnik and a bit less corporate.

It was, of course, a massive generalisation, as advertising is still more than blessed with people who don’t fit the convention (the free-spirited Paul Lawson, Jonathan Burley and David Kolbusz spring to mind).

But he was concerned that agencies – and he included himself in this – aren’t doing enough to seek out and cultivate people from different backgrounds and who might not have studied at Watford or Bournemouth, or come from a red-brick armed with a top degree. And even if agencies did find some rare talent from a non-traditional background and offer them work, he argued that pressures on time and resource would prohibit them from being indulged in their creativity. Instead, they would be expected to instantly produce work that their executive creative director would sign off and could quickly be sold to a client.

Of course, I now fully expect (and indeed hope) that Campaign will be inundated with examples of this not being the case. Liz Nottingham at the IPA, for one, has been trying to deepen the talent pool with its Summer School and Creative Pioneers schemes – so was this just the coffee-fuelled, rheumy-eyed grumble of a paid-up member of the "it was better in my day" brigade?

There is a legitimate if philosophical debate in some quarters that creativity, in particular, is in danger of becoming self-perpetuating and that young practitioners are implicitly discouraged from taking risks in favour of producing something deemed more client-friendly. This, some say, could be as pernicious to creating that elusive "magic" as the much-reviled tissue meetings, as discussed on page 12. I’m not sure if this is the case given that anyone can now express their creativity on a variety of channels for free, but anything that encourages a greater diversity of intake can only be a good thing.

There is a debate in some quarters that young creatives are implicitly discouraged from taking risks

Next week, we publish our annual graduate issue, where we hope to inspire students to consider pursuing a career in advertising or media. Hopefully, people from other backgrounds will be similarly stimulated.

And who knows? They may be able to emulate Greg Delaney, who, after 37 years at the various iterations of DLKW Lowe, is sadly stepping down. He may not be a maverick, but he was always interesting and, along with leaving an assured legacy, has given a masterclass on making a successful and enduring career in the business.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com
@jezzalee

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