Archives for June 2022

06/06/2022 - No Comments!

PAY RISE! – The Musical.

Consider yourself due a raise?

We've all been there. The palm-sweating dread of facing a Mr Bumble-type boss, to ask: "Please sir, can I have some more money?"

I can remember it all too well. As a junior, I would debate with my partner for weeks about going cap in hands to get a few extra shekels. It was like a marathon session with the EU on fishing quotas.

I argued we had good cause. Everyone wanted us on their briefs. We had won pitches. Even picked up some tin. In short, we had proved our worth.

My partner thought otherwise. His tongue-tide, young pride wouldn't bare our group heads saying no. And so, he countered with a "Not now. After we've cracked the next brief."

When we did finally gather our collective balls together and went in, the bosses tap-danced around the subject, doing more ducking and diving than the Artful Dodger. And then came those four stinging words that were curtains for any hope of a salary increase:

"What have you done?"

The truth is, it doesn't matter what you've done, creatives are the last in line for any money, training, or, come to think of it, a fully mapped out career progression.

Living in London as a junior is far from a fine life. According to Glassdoor, a typical Junior Creative salary is £25,286. That's £2,104.83 per month. But average rents are between £2,130 and £2,280, (unless you don't mind living in some Dickensian hovel in the arse end of Hackney.) Then there's the burgeoning cost of travel and other living expenses like food, glorious food, to factor in.

On top of this, we tell them to fill their sponge-like minds by going to galleries, the theatre, travelling the world, having side hustles, and checking out the underground North Korean movie on at the Curzon. All to inspire and feed their creativity.

With what?

Years ago, one team tried a different tack to up their wages. At an agency party where the theme was comedy and jokes, they provided the biggest joke of all - their wage slips. Blown up to A1 size, they wore them as their costumes. The ploy worked; they got their raise. But should they have to resort to drastic measures (as creative as it was), to get a fair wage?

As a new CD at one agency I worked at, in my first month I got five people raises (shockingly, one hadn't been reviewed for almost three years). Not because they had won awards, but because it was the right thing to do. They were doing the job, solving complex problems for clients, pushing them bit by bit to buy better and better work.

The next month, I got three more.

Sometimes you need to give before you get. Quick wins, like reviewing salaries, can show your commitment to treating people fairly. That you respect and value them. If you can help keep their minds free from worrying about how the hell they're going to pay their rent, you're more likely to keep them focused on doing great work.

So, for any young creative or account exec reviewing their situation, don't let nerves hold you back - ask! You've at least earned that. And remember, if they can't give you a pay rise, pounds and pence aren't the only currency. More annual leave, flexible working hours, or outside training may benefit you just as much.

Good luck! I hope it goes your way.

And if you're a manager of people, remember what it was like standing where they are now. Take the review seriously. It's not a tick box exercise just because it's an HR requirement. Listen to what they have to say. Know exactly what they've done (you should already!) And have an honest and grown-up conversation with them.

Without the song and dance, please.

06/06/2022 - No Comments!

I love the smell of N50s in the morning. Smells like… victory.

The Pentel N50 Bullet Tip Permanent Marker - the king of all markers.

Cardboard, metal, wood, rubber, plastic, even glass. You name it, it could write on it. But on a bleed-proof layout pad is where it really left its mark.

Once upon a time, you could walk onto any creative floor in the land, and be instantly hit with a heady mix of diacetone alcohol and potential, wafting down the corridors.

Uncapped, the intoxicating pong meant one thing. The well-greased creative machine had fired up and work had begun. Teams were hard at it, cracking their briefs. Countless pads were being massacred, and office floors now resembled the aftermath of Wembley after England's exit from Euro 2021. Littered with the dead ideas of their brainstorming (only the best ones made it onto the wall).

A scamp had a purity to it. It demonstrated if an idea had 'legs' before any fancy-pants technique embellished it, or photographer/illustrator got their hands on it. A CD could immediately see whether the idea was engaging and hard-working enough to warrant further investment.

Some creatives had a gift for scamping. Others were bloody awful at it. But every scribble had a story to tell. A thought process that revealed whether A. you understood the brief and cracked it, or B. had to go again. It was good training and an essential part of the creative process.

But no more.

Despite the N50 remaining one of the most popular markers in the UK, a box of them in the creative department is rarer than rocking horse poo. There's simply no need for them.

All too many creatives are all too quick to jump on the mac to crack a brief. The default position is to plunder Behance, Colossal and It's Nice That. Then, command + shift + rehash to suit their own purposes.

Of course, it's a given the best and most 'original' new directions in creativity involve some act of unequivocal and overt theft. Even Picasso said 'Art is theft'. But surely, the beg, borrow and stealing bit should come later.

Thankfully, there are still those who scribble. Anyone familiar with Tristan Fitzgerald's 'my sketchbook' series, will see little thoughts and observations come to life in his daily sketches. The process of getting things out of his head and onto paper is both creative and therapeutic.

So, for all Creative Directors out there, please encourage your creatives to take up the pen (or pencil), and love the scamp again. Get them into the habit of working through the brief. To put their own ideas down first, before disappearing into the mac hole.

While you're at, get clients to value them as well, rather than insisting on polished mac visuals all the time. The simple act of a diligent creative taking a pad and trusted N50 to a meeting can leave a client in awe as they knock an ad up right before their very eyes.

A scamp has great power. It concentrates minds and elevates clarity, without being too precious. It creates a healthy discussion around an idea, and just the idea before all the fluff gets in the way.

Yes, by all means, pilage popular culture for new reference material and stylistic influence (we all do it!), but once your ideas are down on paper. Otherwise, how can you be sure you're the one that licked the brief.

06/06/2022 - No Comments!

Equality, diversity, and The Bionic Man.

For a kid growing up in the 70s, The Six Million Dollar Man was essential viewing on a Saturday night.

With a packet of Rancheros cradled between my knees, slurping on cheap fizzy-pop, I was ready to join Steve Austin in taking on all-manner of baddies - even a Yeti!

The thing I really loved was the title sequence. The montage bit where Austin crashes his spaceship and undergoes government-sanctioned surgery. His smashed and broken body parts were replaced with machine parts, making him better than he ever was before. Then rebuilt, he would tear around a test track at 60mph.

It was television gold!

But, in every episode when old Stevie-boy needed to get out of some sticky situation super pronto, it was never at 60mph. Instead, a slow-motion effect conveyed his incredible fleet of foot (a visual oxymoron if ever there was), accompanied by a synthesised bionic mnemonic. That early promise of superhuman speed just never happened.

For me, this oddly mirrors the issue of equality, diversity and inclusion the ad industry currently faces. The promise of ramping up industry-wide changes isn't happening nearly fast enough. Boardrooms are still occupied mainly by middle-aged white men, and on the shop floor, it's not much better. In fact, data from Major Players shows that a white man earns £10,000 more a year on average than a white woman and £20,000 more than a Black woman in the same role.

Don't get me wrong, brilliant things are happening. Many high profile industry leaders are weighing in, championing greater equality, diversity and inclusion, inside and outside the workplace. Now, some agencies anonymise applicants' CVs to prevent unconscious bias when recruiting. Others actively recruit people from disadvantaged backgrounds. A few even have 70% females working for them with a 50/50 gender split on the senior team.

Super positive stuff. Stuff we regularly applaud, support and share, especially within the Linkedin community. But, I can't help thinking, if there's such a groundswell of support across our industry, why does the pace of change still feel sluggish, like Austin running through treacle?

The world's leading data, insights and consulting company, Kantar, wrote recently that inclusion and diversity in advertising are no longer optional; they are imperative. So shouldn't the same be said about the industry producing the ads? After all, we're the ones that are supposed to mirror society and have the ability to shape it.

There are plenty of leaders in our industry with the power to bring about real, meaningful change right now. The kind of change that's been talked about for years, and years, and years. And the sooner they do, the sooner it will be the new norm.

Then stories of a woman becoming the first creative chair of a UK marketing agency won't be so unusual. The industry's media won't feel the need to highlight her gender, her talent, character, and commitment will be the focus that, ironically, make her the right man for the job. And dedicated diversity hubs within companies, offering best-practice guidance and training for their marketing teams, will be redundant, simply because they will already be hardwired into the culture of the place. 

We have the capability to make our industry better than it was before. Better and stronger. If we just pull our fingers out and move faster.

06/06/2022 - No Comments!

Villainy of the highest order.

"I want your money, and I want you out!"

Charming, don't you think? It could have come from some tasty geezer in a Guy Ritchie caper. It didn't. It was spat out the gob of an ECD. A nasty piece of work I had the misfortune of working to in Dubai. 

Musing as he paced back and forth, tossing a paperweight in his hand like some 1930s wise guy flipping a silver dollar, he offered up this as to why my head was now on the block: 

"I want your money to hire a couple of Brazilian teams. I'll burn them, get some awards out of them, then get rid of them."

The fact that I had previously saved a highly prized client from walking (who later did after I left), or helped secure new business before he arrived, didn't matter a jot. He had his mind and plan set. The end justified the nefarious means.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking for sympathy here. Others have already bravely shared better, or should I say, worse accounts than mine on this particular brand of behaviour. I was big enough and ugly enough to fight my corner against him and his gang of complicit droogs, which included the MD and the Head of HR. No, I'm dragging this up because I still see their names pop up. They are still heading up creative departments. Still at the helm of agencies. Still lending a disingenuous ear to those seeking advice from their head of HR.

How? And more importantly, why?

Like many in Dubai at the time, this particular ECD was only interested in awards. By hook or by crook, it didn't matter how he got them. That was his only gauge for success. He didn't get what it meant to head up a creative department, or worse, he didn't care. 

Leading a creative department 101: Look after your people.

Inspire, coach, and support the talent entrusted to you. Encourage them to take risks. Give permission to fail. Dig deeper and go further. Take a peek behind the curtain of what we know now and find some new and exciting directions. Get them back on track if they're stuck or lose momentum. And, if need be, pick them up when things go wrong. Hone their skills and grow their careers. Help them to do the best work while you have them. Then, when they leave - because they will - and go up the ladder, trust them to do things properly somewhere new. To have integrity for the job and the people they now manage. Not trying to burn them or grab salaries in the pursuit of grabbing bright, shiny gongs. That's a fool's gold.

I hate to admit it, but I did learn something from that ECD. How not to be one.

For me, it's always been a privilege to manage fellow creatives. And hope, in some small way, I have helped them on their journey.

So, that leaves us with the question, what should be done about those bad Mad Men still out there? Unquestionably, the industry would be better without them and their thuggish antics. Perhaps the Brick Top school of thought should apply: 

"I hear the best thing to do is feed them to pigs."