In this guest post, J. Walter Thompson Sydney’s head of strategy, Carly Yanco (pictured below), argues that it’s time to call time on Australian advertising’s decadent times of yesteryear…
I keep hearing that there was a time when working in advertising meant you were able to enjoy an extraordinary amount of long lunches, drunken office antics and politically incorrect conversations around the water cooler. We were apparently also paid lots of money to do it! Great times indeed.
Today, it’s a different story, and we all know it’s different because those of you who enjoyed the good ol’ days keep telling us how bad they are now.
Some of the industry’s most iconic advertising emerged during these times, so it seems that the culture of professional debauchery does have its role to play, but something clearly went amiss because those days are pretty much gone, aside from the occasionally chaotic Christmas party and ensuing social media/trade press furore.
I don’t want to be the one to blame all of you who enjoyed this time for its eventual downfall, except that’s exactly what I’m doing… it’s pretty much all your fault. Having been the ones to enjoy these precious times, I reckon you were also entrusted with maintaining them. Yet here we are, squinting into our rear view mirrors trying to catch sight of a time where drink carts started making their way around the office at 3pm each day.
Perhaps the reason the good ol’ days are gone is that clients realised they weren’t just paying for the work – they were paying for all those bottomless lunches too? It doesn’t sound like anyone tried to be particularly discreet about all the money they had to throw toward advertising’s luxuries. For all the folklore of client win parties, pitch theatre and client dinners, none of the stories involved keeping it quiet from said clients. Maybe, despite all the wonderful ideas sold during these days, the one that didn’t sell was the idea that the magical, genius-creative-inducing necessity of professional playtime.
In all seriousness though, there are two genuine problems with the continuation of this type of chat:
- The advertising mystique
Persistent good ol’ day throwbacks keep up the mystique of what advertising agencies could be like. It creates a stark contrast between that and what they are today.
It’s no wonder so many newcomers get a rude shock when they kick off their advertising careers expecting to be a part of continually profound creative work followed by endless celebrations, only to realise the hours are long and the lunches are short, sober and at their desks.
What sort of a reaction should we expect? We tell them advertising days are filled with bold ideas coming from every direction but in reality (even though there’s plenty of that that too), their days are now often filled with the intricacies of dispatching idea-deficient creative to a programmatic robot. When they complain, we call them entitled, but maybe we’ve just sold them a dream and not a reality.
- Time to create
Along with perception issues the industry has also now suffered a gigantic over-correction. We’ve not just lost the professional playtime – we’ve lost adequate time to create at all. There are many factors that have contributed to this (it’s not just the ol’ days chat!), but regardless, efficiencies have permeated all parts of our business and any effort to maintain the precious time needed for creative to thrive is perceived as an old-school approach to ideation.
Instead of thinking about what conditions are conducive to an award-winning, creatively effective idea, we’re asked how much time it should take. There isn’t an answer, but it’s definitely not a ‘fast-tracked’ ideation slot in an already crammed day. Brain space is important, and if there’s one thing that’s sure to get your mind nice and clear for a great brief, it’s numbing it with rosé while looking out over Sydney Harbour the day before.
So, before you lament the good ol’ days, please spare a thought for those of us who never got to experience them and have only known advertising life without them. Despite the battle for time and the bait-and-switch advertising careers we were all sold, the level of creativity the industry produces within the constraints (or the opportunities) of modern marketing continues to get better and better. Perhaps the creative peak of the industry is still to come.