Within the marketing and advertising industries, we've been having the same old conversation about LA for years — citing the same few agencies, creatives, and directors time and time again, and of course, commiserating about the traffic. But the truth is, the LA scene is changing rapidly, and the city is uniquely well-suited to weather the shifting industry landscape. Even the traffic complaint is outdated.
In the past few years, not only has LA become home to a rich and innovative hot spring of creativity across media, marketing, and advertising, but as the lines between entertainment and advertising continue to blur, and as nimble, fluid agencies become the model for the future, LA is especially primed for the future.
A nimble, creative economy
A new wave of innovative agencies has set up shop in LA, beyond just Venice Beach.From Los Feliz to Silver Lake and Culver City, new creatives and directors are driving innovation on a grassroots level and hybrid creative shops are boldly opening without any outside investment. From production companies such as Los York Studio to Ways & Means, to under-the-radar creatives including Colophon, Jonas Wood, and Brud, new players are challenging the traditional agency model and churning out powerful work.
And compared to New York, which centers largely around finance, the city is comprised almost entirely of its booming creative class, making the sky the limit. Instead of bankers and lawyers roaming the streets, agencies in LA are surrounded by writers, directors, set designers, costume designers and creative directors. It’s a true creative capital.
Because LA lacks the “old guard” network of New York and other major cities, aspects such as where you went to school, which agency you’re hailing from, or how many years of experience you have, are all refreshingly irrelevant.The vast diversity of people and the freedom from bureaucracy that come with the “Wild West” is palpable, and it’s what encourages many creatives to feel bold enough to rewrite traditional rules and find new ways to do things.
It’s another reason why hybrid talent in LA is everywhere. Rather than siloed career paths, it’s common to find creatives that wear multiple hats. Many have a combination of skills across traditional, digital, and social marketing; they’re used to juggling different roles, and sometimes even have a freelance gig on the side. Unlike New Yorkers, their identity is less attached to a rigid and defined position or title. In today’s agency, in which flexibility and collaboration are becoming increasingly paramount, this kind of agility and openness in a team member will be highly sought after.
Politically active and engaged
As an expansive and diverse state, and home to the world’s 5th largest economy, California is at the forefront of many progressive policies around issues such as climate change, civil liberties for the LGBT community, marijuana decriminalization, and stricter gun laws, to name a few. The state recently celebrated 10 years of its signature program designed to curb greenhouse gases, and in July 2018, California cities came together to ban plastic straws, leading the way in a small but pivotal first step to reduce plastic use and fight pollution.
California is leading the nation in employment in the marijuana industry — not only did it pave the way for the legalization of recreational use, but the state is on track to create 15,000 jobs in the cannabis industry by 2021. Amid an environment that values social cause, purpose, and progress, more and more agencies are seeking to work with mission-driven brands. Agencies such as Enso, which strictly produces social good campaigns, are proof that corporate social responsibility is on the rise in LA alongside advertising in general.
Rich culture, holistic attitude
There’s a common misconception that the more laid-back culture and people of LA equate to a less serious work ethic, but this simply isn’t true. In fact, I’d argue that we work more effectively because we’re less high strung.The reality is that LA fosters and actively embraces a more holistic approach to one’s personal and professional lives, and it makes all the difference in workplace energy, attitude, and openness.
We value work-life balance. We recharge by spending time in the sun, and we’re not just open to change, we’re ready for it. After all, we’re navigating the tension between Netflix and the studios, and we’re preparing for the arrival of Amazon and Apple.The lines between work and life should become more blurred; work is not defined by a physical space, and people should not be confined to four walls and a cubicle.Creativity is driven from curiosity, exploration, and inquisitiveness, so time spent outside the office could prove highly valuable. It’s not uncommon to meet your next client at a gallery opening or a café, rather than at a business meeting or in a conference room.
And, hey, compared to what my business partners in New York City deal with, LA traffic has nothing on New York commutes. The chaos of packed subway stations, train delays, and crowded sidewalks and terminals makes 40 minutes inside a car on the LA Freeway a literal slice of heaven.
Michael Sharp is cofounder and chief executive of Standard Black