Ben Kay's latest blog post is interesting. You should have a read if you haven't already. Loosely, it's about the notion that it takes a lot of effort to do brave work, and that people are naturally disinclined to put in that effort if the chances of the good work being used seem slim.
It's especially interesting if you read the comments, there appears to be a lot of disenfranchised creatives out there, who appear have given up on producing good work and are just phoning it in.
What a sad state of affairs that is for the industry. But I don't think it's the creatives' fault. There's a problem with advertising agencies – they have lost their sense of purpose. Their goals have become confused, they are now more about keeping the client 'happy', building relationships, doing what it takes to not lose the account, keeping the bean counters happy, keeping their awards scores high in the Gunn report, looking good in the trades. All of these distractions from what their purpose should be – that is, using creative thinking helping to their clients meet and exceed their goals.
Agencies have lost that single-minded purpose. The irony is, if they regained it, long-term the effect would be happier clients and better financial results. But they play the short game of not upsetting clients in the short-term, to the detriment of the work, the results and ultimately, the long-term relationship.
I believe there is still a huge pool of clever and talented people in advertising, but they are being crushed within agency systems that are completely off-purpose. It's no wonder you see this level of disillusionment.
When we set up Sell! Sell!, it was with the single-minded purpose of creating the best creative work. Everything falls out of that. Everything. Off the top of my head, to consistently produce great advertising (not just one or two hits a year amongst everyday dross) you need, amongst other things
Happy, relaxed, talented creatives who are challenged but given enough time and space to meet the challenges
Mutual respect between agency and client
Clients who understand (or are made to understand) that the best work doesn't come out of happy-clappy relationships where no one argues
Clients who give the agency space to answer the problem
An agency that is prepared to stand its ground, but respects the client's opinion
An agency focused on producing a great solution, not a menu of solutions
The problem-solvers (creatives) at the centre of everything
People who are afforded a good work/life balance, not worked to the bone every week, which means realistic deadlines, and realistic staffing
A strong and open culture of the single-minded purpose – "It's all about the work"
There are more, that's just a quick list. But all of these things fall out of the single-minded purpose. All of these things exist because that's the best way to consistently get great work. That's what everything we do, how we are set-up, how we work, is built around. Everything we do is built around the single-minded purpose of producing the best creative ideas to help our clients.
Until agencies regain their sense of purpose, I fear that the industry will be stuck in its rut. Clients won't get the best work, good work will continue to be the rarity, client tenure rates will continue to fall, and talented people will continue to be stifled, and their efforts wasted.