Creative minds from across Europe last week descended on Rome and the striking location of Palazzo Barberini, home to the Eternal City’s National Gallery of Ancient Art. Amid the background of paintings by renowned artists from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century, agency faces debated the future of creativity, the changing role of the creative director and how to inject more ingenuity in to advertising. The Drum rounded up the best bits.
Creativity in advertising is in crisis, and education is to blame
The image of a female crack addict and the degenerative effect the drug has on her appearance over 20 years of use has famously done the rounds online, and is something Dave Buonaguidi chief creative officer at CP+B, used as a metaphor of the current state of the advertising industry and the decline in the standard of work coming out of creative agencies. Buonaguidi blamed much of this on the education system and the near monopoly of the advertising industry.
“It’s a harsh criticism but I think creativity in advertising is in crisis and there are lots of issues,” he said. “I don’t think the work is good enough; I’ve been in the business for 30 years and I don’t think I’m being creative as a could be. The companies that I work around aren’t being as creative as they could be and that is a real challenge. The sad thing is that creativity is the most important thing that we have in the agency and it’s also the most important product that we sell to our clients.”
There are now around 300 further education colleges and universities that teach advertising, however they are being taught by people who no longer work in the business, argued Buonaguidi “They are teaching the future, but they are people who have nothing to do with the present. As a result of that you get not very good products. It’s also very expensive and the only people who can afford to go to college are children of people who work in advertising, we already have too many of those people in the industry and we need to be more diverse”.
He added that creativity as become a “column on a spreadsheet and a commodity” given that the majority of agencies are owned by two or three different companies and independent vision has been lost. His comments come as the agency he founded, but left in 2014, Kamarama was bought by Accenture.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Creativity in education is “the cure to solving issues today” according to Richard Pinder chief executive of Crispin Porter + Bogusky's UK and International business, and he has put his money where his mouth is by moving his two children to Lego’s forward thinking, fee-paying International School of Billund in Copenhagen, which focuses on learning through play to encourage creative, critical thinking. The results, he said, speak for themselves. “My daughter has gone from being at the bottom of the class, to the top”.
While schools like Lego that focus on creativity over measuring skills in more traditional ways are important, the reality is they are still the domain of the rich and powerful, and do little to democratice the creative industries for everyone.
Brands are nervous; “no one wants to be the next Kodak”
Since 2000, more than half (52%) of the Fortune 500 companies have become bankrupt, been acquired or cease to exist. In 1955 the average life expectancy of businesses was 75 years, but today’s corporate mortality rate means that businesses are lasting just 15 years, as startups ride on the wave of disruption and introduce new ways of working that are proving more fruitful than their traditional counterparts.
This “breath-taking” reality is one that Charlie Lyons, managing director at Beyond said is keeping brands up at night in the fear that they might become the next Kodak, whose failure to see digital photography as a disruptive technology, dragged it down the path to bankruptcy.
“We are living and working in uncertain times – the relationships between brands, agencies, ways of working, creative cultures and the irrepressible force of disruption through technology… the attrition and what’s going on is pretty breath-taking.
“Traditional brands are nervous; the corporate mortality rate is moving faster no one wants to be Kodak. They need help, and the good news for those working in agencies and studios is there is very much a seat at the table for you guys to help them with outside thinking, they need to be challenged, they need to be helped, they want to partner.”
Lyons added that start-up businesses are today forming power through creative culture, leveraging talent and using different principles and practices to go to market at scale. In a similar way, Beyond doesn’t work in a traditional sense with the creative director leading the idea, in fact it has never had one, they agency’s growth was incremental and based on the quality of people had in the business. Raising the question, is the creative director dead?
“Some of the ones I knew 15 years ago, are, but reality is they must evolve, the creative department has to evolve, they have to be something that is fit to serve the businesses of the next 20 years. If agencies were factories and output ideas, that is how much value they are attributed to giving. An agency that has a creative department of 30 people is only going to deliver 30 people’s worth of an idea versus an agency that has ideas coming from everywhere through a managed process and a creative culture.”
Creativity can unfuck Europe
2016 has been a particularly challenging year. From Brexit to the continued migrant crisis, terrorism to political surprises, it’s fair to say Europe has encountered a lot of bumps in the road. But with crisis comes opportunity, says Riccardo Fregoso executive creative director of McCann Paris, who believes that creativity can “unfuck’ Europe, and offered up examples of how to win in times of change.
“You can build towers and walls… or you can break them down, and we think creativity can do that,” he said. “We can take every crisis as an opportunity to do better…Crisis is permanent; we are poorer and angrier, but that is good news because the angry challenger wins.”
Here are some of Fregoso’s rules from France on how to unfuck Europe.
- Homemade is good. Illegal prostitution was a problem in France and McCann worked with Le Mouvement du Nid, which seeks to help women victimised by the sex trade, to create a shockingly morbid, but effective campaign that led to the French government illegalising paying for sex. The campaign comprised of a fake website called Girls of Paradise, where in reality all of the women featured had been killed through working as a prostitute. Unsuspecting users were able to chat online with the women, before arranging a phone call. The reveal about the reality of the website then came to life when the users were shown photos of the woman beaten up, or told that the woman isn’t available because she has been murdered. The campaign received 600 calls in the first week, and earned 57.8m media impression.
- Go where nobody wants to go. In January last year, Fox News was forced to issue an apology after it incorrectly reporting that there are “no-go zones” in Paris where non-Muslims are unwelcome and Sharia law is enforced. Drawing on this, Fregoso spoke about an area outside of Paris named Pantin, that has had a bad reputation for being unsafe, but is now home to the new offices of BETC Paris. The agency transformed a derelict flour and grain house in to its new offices, with the building also acting as a cultural destination for a host of events for the wider public and community of Pantin.
What Fregoso's examples drive home is that the role of creativity isn't simply about coming up with a cool or funny idea for an advert anymore, it's about using the power of creativity to devise a campaign or a service that will lead people to think has the ability to change their lives in some way.
Eurobest took place 30 November to 2 December in Rome, Italy.