Are creatives nice people to do business with?
I remember, when I was a child, being given a hard time for using the
word ‘nice’. The word ‘nice’ was apparently sloppy and imprecise - an
exhausted word that had been beaten senseless by years of careless
After ten years in advertising, I have similar feelings about the use of
the word ‘creative’. Agencies that are creative (adjective), employ
creatives (proper noun) to create (verb) creativity (noun), which is
then rated as being more or less creative. For a humble adjective, the
word ‘creative’ certainly gets around.
Speaking at a recent radio conference, I accidentally let the ‘c’ word
slip out and cringed as I heard a titter run round the room. People
outside advertising don’t see themselves as creatives. Instead, they are
writers and producers with ‘skills’ and ‘talents’.
Creativity doesn’t work like that. It is far more mysterious and, as
such, can only be truly understood by advertising people. Surely,
creativity’s finest hour will come when the radio industry sets up an
awards scheme that is ‘by creatives, for creatives’. It would be
official recognition that no-one else is sufficiently creative to judge
That this conceit is ultimately damaging has been demonstrated by recent
events. Most radio ads are cringingly amateurish. But is this
surprising? For years, advertising has been dominated by the visual
media, and agencies have been staffed accordingly. What has been
surprising is radio’s response to the skills shortage. Anywhere else,
you could have expected a rush of training courses and pages of job ads.
But in advertising you don’t need training, you’re creative and all you
need is the will to make it happen.
So radio offers awards and begs agencies to ‘take it seriously’. The
Radio Advertising Bureau has enticed Tony Kaye into radio production,
which will, presumably, make creatives feel sexy about radio. But will
it make them any good? To talk up advertising as being arty and obscure
inevitably frustrates copywriters and alienates clients. Advertising may
occasionally throw up artists like Kaye, but that doesn’t mean it is
We are in the business to sell a product and that product should be sold
using skills, not magic tricks.
I’d like to see some serious money being put behind training. Awards may
be fun, but sitting in a studio hearing a good script come to life - now
that’s really nice.