The Attack on Creativity or Is This the Most Stupid Industry in the History of Humankind?

An Admap study showing the top drivers of advertising profitability has been doing the rounds again. And while that might not sound very interesting if you're a creative, it should interest you, a lot.

Because what this study shows, based on the analysis of over 1500 case studies, is that after the size of a brand, the biggest single factor that can improve the return on investment of your advertising is creative.

According to the study, creative quality has the ability to increase the profitability of your advertising by a factor of 12. That's twelve times more profitable. In other words, for those who prefer percentages, creative can make your advertising 1200% more effective.

This is at odds with what we've witnessed over the past 20 years in the advertising industry. Which, in case you haven't been paying attention, is an industry-wide, sustained attack on creativity, creative people and the things that help those people to be creative.

Creating an environment where creative talent can flourish takes a few fundamental things. Boiled down to their simplest, they are something like: Time, Space, Value, Mentoring, Support.

And these are the things that have been systematically removed from advertising agencies over the past 20 years or so.

Time has been cut to the bone. Time to explore, meander through thoughts, try things out, explore references and inspiration, make mistakes – christ is seems like the industry has been awash with the sort of 'fail harder' 'we need to fail' type of mantra. But the reality is, agencies don't really live by those values. There is never enough time to fail. Time has been squeezed out of projects, as if delivering at speed is somehow adding value to the client. Some clients might like it if you turn things around quickly, but that's very different to actually making a valuable difference to their brand. Everything is a rush or ASAP. I think there are occasions when it's good to work quickly on something, but in general time will only make the thinking and the execution of your advertising better.

Space to work. Ad agencies have fallen foul of the ooh isn't this a creative space fallacy. Open-plan spaces are very efficient for cramming in as many people as possible. That makes the bean-counters very happy. Giant long desks with people lined-up like miners, lit by the glow of the laptop screen to which they appear permanently transfixed. Headphones on to try to create a bit of separation from the noise around them. This has become the de rigueur creative space. Now businesses that aren't in the creative field even adopt this approach to try to create a more creative environment. But the irony is that what might feel like a creative hubbub is, in fact, counter-productive to actually being creative. Have a look at the environments and studios in which designers, writers or artists work. Generally they're quite controlled, quiet spaces within which the person can do their thing. People might want different things from their space to help them, some might work better with inspiration around them and music, others might prefer a quiet, blank space with no distractions. But we force everyone to work in this same creative call centre environment. It's difficult to see how the removal of creative spaces and offices for creatives is having anything but a negative effect on the quality of work.

And how much do we value the creative talent within the ad industry? Pay levels are being constantly chipped away and starting salaries are barely subsistence level at a time when it has never been more expensive to live, and higher-earning, experienced people are being culled from wage bills. If advertising can't attract the best, brightest and most brilliant thinkers and doers, how can it still claim to be the go-to place for the very best creative thinking for businesses and other organisations?

The voice and status of creatives have been diminished within the industry, the spokespeople and leaders of which are increasingly people who haven't created a single thing in their lives. How can we expect the business to be led in the right direction by people who have no idea how it's really done? I suspect it's often the case of what I talked about in an earlier post, which is that the business-people of advertising might love the idea of creativity, but they really don't feel comfortable, or even like, how it happens.

When you have the conditions above it's not difficult to see how the current new generation of creatives are not getting anywhere near the right level of mentoring and support they need to grow into the next creative powerhouses of the industry.

So here we have an industry that was once powered by the creative brilliance of its most talented people.

An industry that should celebrate and nurture above all else the ideas and brilliance of talented creative people.

Where the thing that is the single most powerful controllable element in improving the effectiveness of the work it does for its clients, is the very same thing being slowly and surely eradicated.

Is This the Most Stupid Industry in the History of Humankind?

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