Hungry and emaciated. A short piece about junior creatives.

There was a time when young, hungry advertising creatives would do almost anything to get their foot in the door. That included one team sending us a package containing a metal ruler with the message ‘We want to get our foot in the door.’ But hey, why wouldn’t they want to? Advertising was glamorous and sexy, a golden age of overseas shoots and gabbled, over-enthusiastic conversations in toilet cubicles worldwide.

And then something happened. The calls dried up. The fun direct mail pieces stopped arriving – the young creatives stopped being, well, creative. In the last year I’ve received calls from a paltry handful of teams. Admittedly, this could very well be because they think my work is shit – but hopefully it’s a just a symptom of an industry that’s lost its way. Are we too safe? Are we too expected? Have we lost sexy?

In the late eighties I would have sold my Grandmother to get a job in advertising. No, that’s not true; I would have put together a series of naively punny print ads that honed in on her unique benefits in the vague hope that a top London Creative Director could see that I had the necessary skills to get someone to actually buy her. That is, of course, if I could ever get to fucking see him. (There were, sadly, very few ‘hers.’)

I once called a ridiculously famous Creative Director at the same time every day for literally weeks in the hope he’d see my book. In ‘Wall Street,’ this led to Charlie Sheen eventually getting in to see Gordon Gecko. In my case he just never took my call. Ever. It was awful.
A desperate young team once called Dave Trott’s wife to find out his route to work. They worked out exactly where he’d be stuck in traffic and bought a billboard that contained a funny headline and their phone number. I once asked him what happened next. He said ‘they were shit.’

They were, indeed, tough times for young creatives. If you were lucky, an agency would stick you in a broom cupboard and feed you live briefs. If you weren’t, you’d work from the back of an illegally parked VW Beetle in Central London as my first Art Director Christy Peacock and I did.
We had no job. We had no food. Thinking back, we didn’t even have fucking petrol money but we did have stolen layout pads and a pile of magic markers. And slowly, we learned from some of the best teams in the business – teams famous for ideas that the industry still talks about twenty-five years later. Ideas, sadly, infinitely more difficult to produce now. We have, indeed, lost our way. We live in a time of research, a time of working out whatever the fuck ‘content’ is, a time of clicks, likes and an overuse of the word ‘programmatic.’ We’re simply not sexy enough to warrant not eating.

But I truly believe common sense will prevail and ‘The Idea’ will find its way back to herald another golden age of advertising. And on that glorious day I look forward to seeing two dangerously emaciated creatives desperately trying to crack a brief in the back of a car and I’ll know that the industry’s in a good place. The hunger has returned.

This article was originally published in Adnews.

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