Ad business needs more like its rebel with a cause
A view from Jeremy Lee

Ad business needs more like its rebel with a cause

A recent reunion at my village school was a reminder of how much your earliest years shape you. I once made a stab at a career in advertising, but it finished before it began - me having been stumped by the second question on Young & Rubicam's 1994 graduate application form. It asked, simply enough, "If you were an animal, what would you be and why?" - but I didn't want to be a dolphin...

Dave Buonaguidi’s advertising career has been more enduring, but he is now off to forge a new path in education. You might think that Buonaguidi – a moody, belligerent, simmering soul (a recent Twitter post stated that he would "break the fingers" of the person who stole his motorbike, while former A List entries have also alluded to violence and may or may not have been jokes) – does not seem the best role model for our callow youth. As a self-admitted and self-imposed outsider, he says he never felt particularly comfortable with the chattels of life in the business – a contradiction that appears to have tortured him further.

More evidence of this inherent conflict comes from Buonaguidi’s diktat that Karmarama won’t enter creative awards as he considers them worthless. A convenient excuse, critics are quick to say, for avoiding the submission of campaigns to wider scrutiny (at the risk of being kneecapped, Karmarama does produce its fair share of average work – Cobra being a recent lowlight). Meanwhile, Buonaguidi is quick to savage the work of others in his Private Views in this magazine. But, as he says, he never liked the ad business and perhaps it’s no surprise that large parts of it didn’t really like him back.

The advertising industry needs more oddballs and outsiders and members of the awkward squad

I do, though. The industry needs more oddballs and outsiders and members of the awkward squad. It needs people from disparate backgrounds – Buonaguidi’s story is one of Italian immigrants from the catering trade (his brother runs Karmarama’s restaurant, although whether he will continue to do so, we can only wonder).

Creative departments have traditionally cast a wide net and attracted people from backgrounds beyond the art schools attended by rich kids from the Surrey commuter belt (Russell Ramsey, Nick Gill and Jon Burley, to name a few) – and it would be great if this could be extended as the cost of education becomes prohibitive for all but a minority.

While I don’t necessarily agree with Buonaguidi’s gloomy view that creativity has become commoditised, I hope that his school succeeds. And, on that note, it’s worth turning to our feature to see how the current set of advertising chiefs respond to unsolicited e-mails from a putative naïve schoolboy. It makes for interesting reading.