Talent is just the start for a creative - you need to be hungry to get to the top

By Ian Haworth, Chief creative officer

June 14, 2018 | 4 min read

Hunger is more than just a grumbly stomach.

child eating bowl from unsplash

Hunger is what drives people to the peak in their craft.

And yet, nowadays, people seem full. Not Mr Creosote-full, more afternoon cat-nap full.

As the industry evolves, we’re seeing a lot of new blood come in with oodles of IQ and EQ. But they’re missing something I like to call HQ.

Hunger Quotient.

The difference between people succeeding and failing in this industry is hunger. Sure, you’ll have a few exceptions, where someone’s managed to slip through the cracks, but on the whole, you have to work bloody hard for this.

And on the outside, it might not seem that way. It might look like all we do is swan about, buggering off to Cannes to get smashed with our industry mates. And yes, that does play a part in what you can do within this industry. But it’s a very small part. Just like actors, musicians and directors, there’s more to this advertising lark than it appears.

A lot of people just don’t get that.

Do they give a toss?

People who are actively interested in the industry, people who’ve graduated from top universities or art schools, people who’ve excelled at college, people who’ve shown a creative flare whatever their background, come in and expect things to be easy.

Their ludicrous talent or education will set them up for a care-free life in advertising, so they’ve been told. They think they’ll be Don Draper by lunchtime.

And when people get here, they realise that it’s hard. That you have to work to make a success of yourself.

This isn’t exclusive to advertising, of course. But I see it enough to realise it’s becoming a problem. Where’s the hunger? I ask myself regularly.

And it’s a shame, because there’s so much potential.

There’s an endless pool of talented, creative minds coming from different walks of life, ready to pit their ideas against the best in the business. But then the desire, the drive, the ambition is lacking. And they need it more than ever today. Talent’s the special bit, but it’s only 10% of the equation.

The other 90% is the effort to push talent forward.

Whether it be at home, school, college, university, the workplace itself – the majority of people just aren’t being instilled with that HQ. The talent can be nurtured as long as it’s there. To make someone hungry they have to want it. You can’t really make them.

More often than not, I’ll employ someone because I bounce off of their attitude rather than the initial portfolio they present.

Most people coming through seem to lack curiosity and the application of their talent. They have the wardrobe in front of them, ready to assemble, but they lost the instruction manual along the way, you know?

People with HQ have the humility to grow, because they never lose their inquisitiveness, they never want to stop learning. They admire people who’ve grafted and they understand that in such a hyper-competitive industry, that’s the only way to move forward.

Diversity and inclusivity are still important.

Rich, poor, black, white, tall, short, gay, straight, whatever. The creative tension created by teams of people from varied backgrounds is like nothing else. It’s magic. And I’d hate to see this magic deplete due to a lack of HQ.

To make this magic, you need to stir the cauldron, you’ve got to cook-up some steam. You then need to stay hungry – as well as curious, driven and creative – for your entire career. That’s what real success looks like to me. Let’s not lose it.

Ian Haworth is chief creative officer at Wunderman UK


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