Why Good Ad Creatives Are Great

I  wanted to write this after reading this post by Scamp (thanks Scampy) about the ECD of VCCP, a London ad agency talking about hiring 'randoms' for his creative department. Like Scamp I can see a bit of where he's coming from, but at the same I think it's the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Let's be honest, there is a lot of bashing of ad creatives, from both within and outside the industry. And, hands-up, I've been a part of that too. Mainly because bad creatives do my head in. They are the excuse that the industry uses to malign and sideline creative departments.

There is a problem in the industry with a vast amount of creatives coming from very similar background, and doing very similar courses to 'learn' how to do advertising. Some of these creatives lack originality of thought, courage and conviction. They are bad creatives.

But this post isn't about bad ad creatives. This post is about good ad creatives.

They are still out there. Quite a lot of them.

And good ad creatives are still the most powerful force in marketing.

And it's a crying shame that they're undervalued, because what they bring to the business is amazing.

Good ad creatives understand business problems, and want to solve them.

Good ad creatives are equally happy talking to a salesman or a warehouse worker as the CMO, and know how to get useful information out of them.

Good ad creatives constantly push themselves to produce original work.

They probably hate working late, or working weekends. But they carry the problem with them at all times, and are likely turning it over in their head whilst at the cinema on a Friday night, or making breakfast on a Sunday.

Good creatives are great at strategy, not just in an instinctive, childlike way (as often depicted) but in an intelligent, commercial way.

Good creatives are great at soaking up others' knowledge.

They are adept at looking at problems and situations from other peoples' point of view.

They ask lots of questions - sometimes ones that seem stupid, but that release vital insight or information.

Good creatives have an opinion.

Good creatives are able to walk the fine and difficult line between having the courage of their own convictions in the face of critique, and listening to others' points-of-view in case they're right. Then reacting to that to improve the work. In fact, they are probably better at this than any other character in the marketing and advertising industry, more than any client, more than any planner.

Good creatives can craft great copy, beautiful images, powerful images.

They can be punchy, or thoughtful, have impact or beauty, they can be brief, or expansive, they can be simple, or elaborate.

In short, they can work in a variety of styles, to best suit the job in hand.

Good creatives can solve a massive problem with a simple thought.

Good creatives have both plain common sense, and artistic qualities.

Good creatives constantly look for inspiration in art, literature, film, design, theatre.

Good creatives don't copy or lift or steal.

Good creatives make something new and powerful inspired by their reference points.

Good creatives love a factory tour.

Good creatives are happy chatting with the glass collector at Chorley Labour Club, or the Chief Financial Officer of HSBC.

Good creatives are not the hammer that sees the nail. They don't assume that every solution is an advertising media solution - even though sometimes those spaces are already booked.

Good creatives have healthy competition with their colleagues and rivals, and use this energy to push themselves and their work.

They take their responsibility seriously - they take ownership of the problem - whilst at the same time retaining a very difficult to achieve state of looseness that allows them to think creatively and laterally.

Good creatives are self-aware - probably the most self aware people in the business. They constantly police themselves to make sure they're not falling into patterns of thinking, or cliche or lazy thinking.

They strive to keep their thinking fresh.

Good creatives go again. And again.

And again.

The hate doing - and redoing - work for the wrong reasons, but will keep going and going if they feel they're getting closer to something good.

Good creatives come from any social or education background.

Good creatives have instinctive understanding of what makes things good or powerful or right, but are constantly striving to understand why it is so and learn and improve.

Good creatives aren't scared of emerging technology, but aren't hoodwinked by the latest fashion or fad.

Good creatives have a healthy skepticism.

Good creatives ask why not?

Good creative are a complex mix of very disparate qualities, traits, and skills - often things you wouldn't expect to find in the same person.

And good creatives do all this day in, day out.

They are the engine room of the industry.

They are the advertising industry.

Used effectively, and given the right opportunities, they are still the most powerful force in marketing.

They should be the leaders and the spokespeople of the ad industry.

I'm convinced that there are still many very good and even great creatives in the industry. The talent is there. The problem is the systems they are made to work in. Why, even in agencies that are considered good, is only a small percentage of output of a high quality?

The problem often isn't the people, it's the system they are made to work in - the factors introduced by the way the agency is set-up, the way their relationships with clients and holding companies are established.

When people like Darren Bailes talks about hiring stuntmen or randoms, they are trying to solve the wrong problem. They are attacking the symptoms not the real problem.

I would like to Sell! Sell! be able to provide a (work) home for more and more good creatives, so that they can really do what I know they are able to do. If you are a good creative who feels stifled by the system you work in, and would like to instead work in an environment built around creatives, please send us your details - we're not hiring right now, but at some point in the future we will be looking for the industry's brightest and best creatives.

In the meantime, let's raise a glass to thinking on the khazi.


  1. ah, good creatives... a special breed. you won't see them much around agency. you won't hear them loudly selfpraising their (often rejected) ideas on agency hallways, dressed in latest trends. good creatives are pinned to their desks till they find the solution.

    their dedication to work actually makes them invisible.
    that's why they're undervalued.

  2. Hear, hear! Great post Mr Sell.

  3. As someone who considers themselves to be a good creative, I just wanted to say thanks for this post.

  4. Brilliant post! I do agree 111% but would like to add one thing and get your opinion on it:

    Good creatives don't copy or lift or steal. But if they do, they will reuse in a better reason others could have imagined. And get away with it.

  5. Apols, for the typos, I obviously meant:

    But if they do, they will reuse it in a better reason others could NOT have imagined. And get away with it.

  6. This is why i visit this blog daily.
    Sell Sell talk sense
    Here's to 1 percenters

  7. As for the copying, I always think Mr Jarmusch put it best:

    Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

    Great post too