Scrolled talent: advertising and its suffocated creativity

Apac - Turn on the light
Apac – Turn on the light

I’ve seen people fall in love with brands.
I’ve seen some people whose favorite brands matched their ideals, values or lifestyle.
I’ve seen an even stronger combination of people totally and absolutely passionate about advertising itself.
Even people who love their brands, advertising itself and have an amazing love and loyalty for the agency they’re working in.
Advertising is powerful, we all know it.
It has a power that can somehow achieve to become a strong, almost religious belief, often stronger on the people who work inside the industry, and no the other way around.
(Because, who stays more mesmerized by the new Nike ad, and shares it the most? Yep, publicist.)

There is also the counterpart of people who hate everything that I’ve mentioned before.
Who are often people who have no option, because advertising as one dear friend once said is, until now, the only place offering a “real job” labeled under the name of “creativity”.
Something exciting for a young person whose profile won’t fit somewhere else; it has a place for the young writer: copywriter, for the illustrator and the designer, the animator, the programmer, the communication student ready to define his or her area. The golden pot placed at the end of the rainbow after a humanistic bachelor, with a paid place just for you at one of its departments.

But then comes the reality, or the “price to pay” like other friend once said “Yes, we get finally a paid job under the name of creativity, but it has absorbed it like a vacuum, leaving no room for something else.”

Despair - Ella F. Sanders
Despair – Ella F. Sanders

This world is also a place where everything goes so fast, where everyday felt as if you built a campfire with care and effort, and at the end of the day all that remained were tiny pieces of charcoal that you counted, drop to a pile, and then come back the next day, to do the very same thing all over again. I experienced this feeling on my own skin.

But I did truly enjoy the creative process, the making of, the research, the adrenaline it gave me; but sometimes it was just too much what it took and so little what I had in return, that, at the end of the day the exciting creative process, if any, remained under many big thick layers of frustration, stress and exhaustion, so much that I forgot about that I woke up everyday for that reason, for my precious place in this industry; the job that I had to explain, justify and even defend many times to many people in many situations.
And at some point you think that you love this but you realize as Murat Mutlu wrote in 2013 that:

The rewards for creatives are often minimal, we’re happy for a pat on a back and to be included in a ‘thanks for your effort’ all staff email but the chances of getting money, shares, or even getting your name dropped into the press release for all that hard work are slim to zero.

This is showed by the rising number of articles about people leaving advertising, or how people that work on advertising are unhappy, then the responses that say that people are happy; all this is somehow showing that something is indeed happening and not only on a mexican context; as Ana Maria Olabuenaga said recently in an interview:

“The market logic (who I am, what I like, how much it costs, what I want, what I want to buy, what do I consume) rotates in a completely different orbit from the one from festivals (I need to win prizes), which at the same time, rotates in a different orbit from the one of advertisers (I need people to buy me), and these are turning into a totally different digital media orbit (where people create a lot of conversations)… a universe in chaos that needs order ”

We are isolated in our advertising-agency-culture-islands, immersed in a sub reality of competition, rivalry, gossip and awards. And work, perhaps too much work, getting far and far away from people.
I heard more often “this post will have many likes” instead of “People will like this post”.
People are not people anymore, people, that are the final audience for whom we spent hours and hours working for; became “clicks”, “likes”, “retweets”. We see the numbers on our screen not the people behind the screen. We’re giving them so little and giving so much work.

We are surviving in our advertising world getting away from the ways that could take us closer to them and create a channel towards them, like anthropology, sociology, psychology, simple observation; something that could give us deeper analysis and a clearer image on what they’re doing and know their reactions. Not just “Ads of the world”, not just reference after reference, instead of paying attention of “Sony did this” we should be paying attention to “people are looking at this, because this is what’s happening right now”.

Ideas just for the sake of pretty ideas are cool, award deserving, and…?
Engagement is also a word we hear everyday, a fluctuating cipher that can get us into trouble or celebrations with the clients, but what is stronger: the client-publicist engagement or the bond between brands with people? Engagement should mean a state of commitment.
And yet advertising is maybe the first word that pops up in our mind when someone says “creative industry”.

I see often so much beauty, energy and talent carefully crafting their work piece by piece then watch it disappear within seconds, in the blur of a scroll.

But where out of advertising will I find a home with the same empathy vibe from my co-workers? I love this crazy people” I once heard a coworker said, and yes, it’s so easy to find a context where you won’t feel like a “creative outsider”.

Negley - Depression
Negley – Depression

As in the Hammelin flaute singer story, he appeared in a village and stole all the kids; the advertising flaute singing-industry appeared and seems to have stolen, if not all, a great number of artists.

I cannot deny I feel relief when I know of someone who quits to give her/his talent to something truly linked to their hearts.
But deep inside I also understand the people who stay despite knowing that something isn’t right and have the reasons to stay there even if it is for passion for advertising, learning, or fear; it isn’t easy. I admire both.

Something that you might hear often in advertising is “Take risks”, these risks should be done for something with meaning; “the world needs artists, more than ever” recently said Elizabeth Gilbert… And where are the best artist right now? (Yep: Advertising)
What’s left now is to shape our objective and take care of us as individuals and as a society, and give something, more than just more stuff and brands to buy.

Inspiration has been replaced with fear. The advertising industry is filled with scared people. That fear creates a culture of land grabbing rather than collaboration. Executives asking for constant innovations from their agencies while their mid-level managers squash any innovative idea out of fear to lose their job. Every company talks about failing fast. Not many companies live up to their own talk. The fear creates a culture of never-ending POVs, data obsession as a safety belt, revisions of PowerPoint revisions and revisions of aforementioned revisions.
Brands can be powerful change agents, develop mass movements and improve everyone’s lives. It’s a huge responsibility to be a powerful brand. It goes way beyond filling media spaces with creative executions. Way beyond optimizing technology and the pipes to transfer communications to people through programmatic buying and sophisticated targeting. We’ve fallen in love with technology rather than technology being the slave of the idea.Good advertising is about persuasion. Today’s advertising is dominated by promotion.

We lost our way, walked away from advertising and the art of persuasion. And made a Faustian bargain with technology. (Uwe Hook  Why I quit my agency job)

Edna Arauz

Graphic edition by Edna Arauz

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