Don't pickle creativity in aspic. Embrace the new
A view from Mark Boyd

Don't pickle creativity in aspic. Embrace the new

If independent ad agencies are reporting regular pitch lists of 15 peer agencies, if everyone looks the same, do something different. Zag. Disrupt.

In his 1933 inauguration address, Franklin D Roosevelt famously said: "You have nothing to fear but fear itself". There’s surely some irony that 84 years and 12 presidents later, Donald Trump was accused of playing the "fear card" in his successful campaign to reach the White House.

Whatever. Neil Hughston makes some very interesting points in his Campaign piece – "We don’t need ‘new’ models, we need more brilliant work", and the industry looks forward to seeing his Trumpesque contribution to draining the advertising "sea of mediocrity".

Acknowledging that there are a diminished number of start-ups in the advertising agency space, he also points the finger at that hoary old enemy – fear – and not the fact that the market is already well served. Even a rudimentary glance through Campaign School Reports of just two weeks ago shows how well served it is. Beyond these, there are many more that struggle to make the cut.

Be fearless. Embrace change. I’m siding with Roosevelt rather than Trump on this one.

Of course craft skills are important, but we need a broader set of skills.  This isn’t because Watford isn’t a fine educational establishment – it is – but modern agencies need talent from a breadth of different backgrounds to reflect the diversity of marketing communications that their clients want.

Here at Gravity Road, for example, we have people with backgrounds in comedy and publishing, while we’ve also established a bursary at the School of Communications Arts to nurture new talent.

Moreover, Hughston's reference to The Price is Right (for younger readers, that was a popular primetime ITV gameshow from the 80s) perhaps belies a nostalgia for simpler times. Yes, Neil is right to honour the memory of Flat Eric and the Tango Slaps and they do have a proud place in the annals of British advertising history.

However these were from an era before even Channel 5 had sent someone round to retune our TV sets to watch the Spice Girls on launch night – where there were only two commercial TV channels to show your single TV ad conceit.

Since then, YouTube, Facebook and countless other AV platforms have launched – again, this is nothing for trembling souls to be fearful of. Rather they represent an enormous palette for one to be creative with both medium and message – whether that be a beautifully crafted ad or piece of content, a "#Likeagirl" or our own Pokerstars "#Raiseit" campaign, which has racked up 160 million views since launch six months ago.

I’m not scared of that – and given the iPad in the hands of Neil’s nine-year-old daughter, it doesn’t look like she is either.

I think Neil might have missed the point. If independent ad agencies are reporting regular pitch lists of 15 peer agencies, if everyone looks the same, do something different. This is a symptom of oversupply. In the face of this, as we’re all so keen to point out to clients, do things differently. Zag. Disrupt.

The session that was misquoted was about the advertising business. That business of start-ups is not necessarily easy as he – and many others – know. There isn’t the space for luxurious lifestyle businesses anymore and we’re all in the business of being in business.

All the talk from Advertising Week from Google’s travails to Accenture’s adventures was about the business model’s changing. So lets not pickle the agency model in aspic, afraid of embracing change.

But giving him a nod to the past, Roosevelt himself might describe it not as a "new model" but as a New Deal. Bigly.

Mark Boyd is the founder of Gravity Road.

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