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'Mad Men culture, professional creatives and awards obsession' - departing Karmarama founder Dave Buonaguidi on the ad industry "rut"

Buonaguidi is leaving Karmarama after 14 years

Departing Karmarama founder Dave Buonaguidi has called out the ad industry for becoming too much of a “painting by numbers exercise” after years of "treating creativity as a commodity”.

Following the news of his departure from the agency he helped set up 14 years ago, Buonaguidi told The Drum how he believed the ad industry had gotten itself into “a rut” populated with “professional creatives who are only creative between the hours of 9am and 6pm”.

“There are a lot of agencies out there that are all based on Mad Men, it’s predictable and nothing changes. Karmarama was always very modern…it’s a real shame there aren’t more creatives entering the ad business and trying to make it better,” he said.

“The industry feels very flat and doesn’t seem very inspired, I’m done with trying to change the world of advertising and I’m going to try and do things that make me happy…it feels very peculiar resigning from the business I set up but Karmarama is in good shape and it gives me the opportunity to get on and try something new.”

On announcing his decision to move on, Buonaguidi confirmed plans for two new projects - a free creative school, funded by advertising agencies, and a venture that he described as “a little less ad agency but still on the creative side of things because I’m still a firm believer in creativity as the cure”.

Of the school, which is set to be an 18-month long course for around 20 students, Buonaguidi said: “College is expensive and it’s prohibited to a huge amount of people - though it helps if you’re white, middle class and live in London.

“We’re a multi-national, multi-racial, interesting dynamic of people in the UK but for some reason the only people working in advertising are white, middle-class men who seem to be obsessed with rewarding themselves and are only interested in ‘what do my friends in advertising think’ when it comes to creating an ad or a piece of communications.”

Echoing sentiments expressed by BBH co-founder Sir John Hegarty at Thinkbox’s Big Think event in London earlier this month where he warned of the advertising agency losing it courage, he added: “The business needs inspiration and I don’t know who the fuck’s going to give it.

“The next creative saviour of the country could be in the Isle of Skye and just because they don’t live in London and have £15K to go on a course we’ve all missed out, I think it’s a terrible waste and I’m in a position where I’m not allowed to do any advertising work for a year so I might as well try and do something that’s constructive.”

Set to leave the agency at the end of the year, Buonaguidi will remain a shareholder he explained, before he added; “creating a company that actually had values and believed in creating decent, honest relationships with its clients before personal egos and awards” had been the highlight of his 14 year tenure.

“I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels…I love the excitement of trying new things and for me it makes sense to see what’s around the corner.”

Early reports suggest Caitlin Ryan, group executive creative director, will lead Karmarama’s creative department with executive creative directors Sam Walker and Joe de Souza though Buonaguidi said he had “no clue what will happen” after he leaves.

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