Why creative people have lost their way
A view from David Kolbusz

Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

…I’m actually a big fan of bite-sized intellectual dogmas when strategists write them. Or account people. Or anyone whose job it is to have opinions about the business side of what we do.

But these sprawling diatribes from creative minds that crop up in the pages of reputable advertising trade publications follow a pretty tired formula: you lay out a provocation that presents a harsh critical viewpoint about an ill within our industry, and then inspire your readership with a fascinating new solution to the alleged problem.

More often than not, they just read like self-congratulatory exercises in opportunism designed to make a creative person appear more responsible. More client-friendly. But why? We’re at our best when we’re a bit dangerous. And any client worth their salt should want work the world hasn’t seen before. Brave work. Different work. And that means creatives should spend more time doing and less time pontificating.

I recognise that this is a column about why I shouldn’t have written this column, but bear with me. I do have a point.

The way for creative people to inspire others is through the work that we make. And we’ve lost sight of that a bit. 

We fill our days with meetings and theory and so much shit that has so little to do with creating things that will truly stand out. If we were just a little less responsible with our time, would we get to a more surprising output?

We’ve stopped allowing ourselves the freedom to get a bit lost.

Very recently, I was given the gift of two weeks on a brief. A client told me I had an entire fortnight to solve a business problem, which is an embarrassment of time in this day and age. So what did I do? I fucked around. Went to see a movie. A Ghost Story. It’s by David Lowery. A meditation on grief. Told in long, slow takes, devoid of proper narrative. You see what a ghost experiences over time. From a ghost’s perspective. It was majestic. Meditative. Inspiring. In all likelihood, I won’t use it in my day-to-day, but it opened up reserves of creative energy. It got me thinking in a different way. And that was time that might have otherwise been spent in a meeting about programmatic marketing.

Creativity in our industry is not dying because creative people are becoming less creative. It’s because they’re increasingly being asked to behave like business people and to put business interests ahead of creative work. Your job as a truly creative person should be actively finding ways to get fired. Make work that might get you asked off the business. Because that’s the work that – should it get produced – will send shivers down customers’ spines and open up their wallets. Great creativity sells.

You make a television commercial that commands attention from the first look and all of a sudden you don’t need the opening titles to tell you what brand the ad is sponsored by. Or the logo bug in the corner of the screen to act as a reminder. Or brand colours woven into your film through wardrobe and propping. Because if the work is good enough, you’ll wait around, desperate to find out who brought you this compelling piece of communication and what it is they are selling.

All we as creative people need to fulfil the promise of our forebears – the headcases who rode horses through waves to sell beer and twisted bodies at late-night petrol station meet-ups to sell denim – is the space to be as mad as they once were. That space is created by eliminating all the unnecessary shit we do to make ourselves seem more savvy than we actually are.

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to work. I hope it wasn’t as much a waste of your time reading this as it was mine writing it. 

David Kolbusz is the chief creative officer of Droga5 London. 
@davidkolbusz