"Everything’s fucked up," Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Grey London, said at Campaign’s Breakfast Briefing on Wednesday. "That’s when it starts to get interesting."
Maguire’s comment summed up the general mood among attendees at the event, entitled "The year ahead: navigating uncertain times". Despite forces including Brexit, budget pressures and in-housing, industry leaders remain buoyant about 2019, insisting that the best creativity will emerge from a time of turbulence.
"From a creative point of view, I’m not shitting myself," Maguire said. For anyone seeking their own confidence boost, here's some advice from the speakers on how to get through what is set to be a shaky 2019.
The ad industry has become too obsessed with talk of new agency models: "I don’t care," David Golding, a co-founder of Adam & Eve/DDB, said. "Focus on the product."
At the end of the day, clients won’t care about the agency model either, as long as it’s delivering for their business. "We’ve spent a lot of time navel-gazing and worrying – but now is a time for action," Lisa Thomas, chief brand officer at Virgin, said.
Take a long-term view
"Look ahead to 2023, not 2019," Golding said. "More people need to talk about the health of brands, rather than the sales of next quarter."
Thomas also warned marketers to look at the big picture despite facing short-term sales pressure.
"Think about the brand, not the marketing of it. Advertising alone isn’t going to make a brand now," she explained.
Be kind to each other
This advice from A&E/DDB co-founder James Murphy feels particularly relevant during stressful periods, which can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Murphy said: "If you can create the most wonderful, humane environment for people to work together, then you’ll create the most wonderful, humane communications."
Focus on creativity
Even with Brexit looming, Britain’s creative industries remain global leaders, David Abraham, founder of Wonderhood Studios, reminded the audience. The biggest challenge facing those businesses is harnessing the power of their creative talent.
"If we can focus on creative departments and the power and energy they create, then we’re starting from the right place," he said.
And speaking of creativity…
We’re not the first generation to believe we’re facing the end of the world. Maguire recalled coming of age in the 1980s, when "we were literally going to die". Yet that’s when she said she discovered her creative mojo.
"We didn’t navel-gaze or talk about models and margins. We partied, we made music, we made art," she pointed out. "You felt the energy, and you felt you were empowered and could do something about it."
If Maguire’s predictions are right, we’re living in a similar climate now amid political and cultural turmoil – meaning there could be some real breakthroughs in creative work.
"It’s about breaking stuff and putting the pieces back together in a new way," she said. "When nobody knows what they’re doing, this is the time to do anything you want."
Campaign’s Breakfast Briefing was held in London in partnership with M&A specialist Results International.