Opinion: Perspective - Why won't the ad industry bang its own drum?

It's time for some advertising feelgood, time for some ra-ra, time to focus on what makes this industry so special and of such unique value to clients. Time to listen to Maurice Saatchi: "The only known antidote to the drug of disillusionment is creativity. If the pursuit of happiness is truly the right of every human being, then creativity is a means to that end."

The real importance of creativity, Saatchi says, "does not lie in economics. It is important because creativity is a force for good in people's lives. It is the hope for the future."

Which should make everyone working in this particular creative industry feel warm about what they do and if it pays the mortgage, even better.

Saatchi was talking at this week's Creative Britain event in London's Golden Square. By way of Kafka, Keats, Shakespeare, Churchill and the Sermon on the Mount, his theme was the transformational power of creativity, its power as a force for good.

It's just a shame more people from the ad industry weren't there to hear him and add their own voices to the celebration of Britain's creative industries.

The Creative Britain event, masterminded by the IPA and its president M&C Saatchi's Moray MacLennan, was a really smart idea, absolutely the right response to the Government's Creative Economy initiative and a great battle cry for the power and vibrancy of the ad business. The disappointment was - as usual - the lack of support from the ad industry at large. Focusing so much on the Golden Square creative melting pot won't have helped engage agencies who don't reside there. But even so, the opportunity to celebrate the creative potency of the industry before the Government, the press and associated creative sectors was missed by the wider industry.

And the creative residents of Golden Square itself didn't exactly pull out all the stops. As a celebration of creativity, it all felt a little flat. Hopefully the school children who had been gathered in Golden Square for the event got a deep-vein injection of creativity once they were taken on a tour of the offices themselves.

But your casual passer-by would simply have seen a bunch of besuited businessmen looking about as vibrant, creative and exciting as bank managers at a convention.

Creative Britain is an excellent and necessary initiative and as a ball-rolling event, the Golden Square shindig was a great start. Now the rest of the industry needs to really get behind it. After all, if agencies can't be bothered to champion their own business and put a real value on the transformational power of the creative process, why should they expect clients to do the same?

The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, was also a star turn at the Creative Britain event, speaking to a whooping crowd of school children gathered in Golden Square to get a taste of our creative industries. Burnham told the children to believe in themselves and their talent and to strive to find ways to draw it out. "Never let anyone talk you out of your dream," he said. And he told them that the Government is working with the country's creative industries to open up job opportunities for everyone, from all walks of life.

The largely homogenous advertising industry has a long way to go before it lives up to this promise. How easy would it be today for people such as Sir Alan Parker (the son of a dressmaker and an electricity board railings painter), Sir John Hegarty (the son of a school secretary and a labourer), Paul Arden (who grew up in a council house and left school at 16) and Peter Mead (a working class boy from Peckham) to get in?

You'd hope talent like theirs would overshadow their non-middle class, non-graduate backgrounds today, too, but I'm not so sure. Yet advertising would be so much poorer without their contribution. Let's hope Burnham's words are matched by a new open-mind on the part of the ad industry as to where it finds its next generation of talent.

claire.beale@haymarket.com.

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