The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Take A Long, Hard Look At Yourself Adland …
September 21, 2009, 9:32 am
Filed under: Comment

Yes, yes … I know I said there wouldn’t be a post until Friday but as I’ll be in China without internet access and this issue has been angering me since Friday, I thought I’d bung in another post for errrrm, good luck.

On Friday at the SPIKES, we had the absolute privilege to see the utterly brilliant Sir Ken Robinson speak.

Putting aside that some people might not know who he is [which say’s a lot more about them than I could ever achieve], the fact is the turn out for this rare opportunity was a disgrace – about 30% at the beginning of the speech – leading to Sir Ken even making a joke about it.

But where were they?

Were they all hungover from pretending they were rock stars the night before?

Maybe some … but it seems the majority of the delegates were attending a workshop on “How To Win A Bloody Cannes Somethingorother”.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

If you want to win a Cannes Lion, all you have to do is something insightful, differentiated, interesting and real.

How long does that take to tell? 13 seconds?

For an industry that talks about ideas and media neutrality – it’s telling that the biggest attended seminars were the ones where a lot of ads were shown. And putting a TVC on the web is NOT digital … it’s called putting a TVC on the web.

As you all know, I’ve been a groupie of Sir Ken’s for many years and I know everyone who saw him left feeling in awe at his intellect, passion, humour and viewpoint on creativity … and for me, he was by far the most inspiring speaker of the SPIKES and the fact he has never even worked in adland is very telling about the real state of our industry, a state very few seem to ever want to talk about publically … or should I say, talk about publically with total honesty.

[I should point out there were some very good and interesting speakers who came from adland – however just like Monica Lewinksky did to El Presidente Clinton, Sir Ken blew them away *]

By sheer fluke, I saw Sir Ken at the airport and after calling on my ‘Baz spirit’ I went over to say hello and ended up chatting with him for a couple of wonderful, glorious hours.

Well, they were wonderful and glorious for me – not sure about him – but given he sent me an email this morning that didn’t feature the words “CEASE & DESIST” I think he didn’t mind too much, but that could be because we both have wives that have an unnatural love for Elvis Presley.

Anyway, I truly believe that if more people in adland followed his philosophy on creativity rather than just chase award ratings, then I reckon we might be an industry with a strong future rather than just a great past – alas, like drug addicts, for all the talk of wanting to think interms of the ‘bigger idea’, the lure of the 30” TVC and print ad is just too much for many of them, even though they all know it’s what’s slowly killing them and their industry at the same time.

* Yes that is the worst analogy of 2009. Sorry.

27 Comments so far
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I thought he was easily the best speaker too Rob. He didn’t say much that was new but he did say it with wit, insight and humanity. The saddest thing for me though was no the turnout but the fact that almost all the creative people I spoke to ( there was one exception) had never heard of him!!

Comment by martin

I’m with you Martin [and it was bloody tops seeing you] but I guess the bit that upsets me more is that in essence, he is not saying anything new and yet year after year, few companies actually do any of it – preferring to either ignore it or simply hire people like him in an attempt to look ‘good by association’.

Comment by Rob

Only when Sir Ken gives you a job can you claim to have called upon my spirit. 🙂

Is he as brilliant as I suspect he is?

Very disappointing at the turnout for SKR, I think you sum up the reasons pretty well.

Comment by Bazza

I was first in this morning, as usual, and after doing one or two useful things, I logged on to this blog, or tried to, only to find our whole server crashed.
That’s right, this blog broke our entire system. How did you do it?

Comment by northern

We could millions from that…

£500 3 day course – How to win at Cannes

Then we just put a slide up saying “Be insightful and creative – Ie.: Do your job.”

Comment by Rob Mortimer

You’ve got a funny idea of luck. I feel distinctly unlucky having to read two of your posts in one sitting.

Comment by John

Tell all your ad buddies to log on to here … let’s bring adland to it’s knees. Oh hang on, it’s already there – let’s put them in the box and be done with it.

Thank you NP/Northern, you’ve given me the 2nd best bit of news for the day.

And yes Mr M, you’re right … I reckon we could do it and it’d we’d pull it off or at least we would till either Watchdog [is that still going?] or Roger Cook [is he still alive?] comes along.

Comment by Rob

Watchdog has devolved into a crappy studio audience/special guest festival …

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Well it was hardly the bastion of justice even back when I watched it.

Now Crimewatch … 🙂

Comment by Rob

He wasn’t talking about adland so they weren’t interested.

Comment by John

I know John … and that’s why my industry is fucked because they’ve started to believe that understanding, connecting and motivating society is an ‘optional extra’.

Comment by Rob

you know its called stalking dont you campbell.

another fucking name to drop and bore people rigid with. at least i collect starlets rather than fucking pleasantly clever 50 year olds. men.


Comment by andy@cynic

I just wanted to say thank you for your blog entry here and the one on Media Magazine. I am the Communications Director at DDB and I was the one sweating bullets when there were like, five people sitting in the room. Our whole point was to have someone talk about creativity that was not an ECD talking to other ECDs about creativity. At 5 minutes to 11am — I was scared we were perhaps being too high brow.

In the end, I would have put the number to 250 though. Thank God!

Like you, I felt privledged to have met him. What an inspiration.

Comment by Karen

Campbell – 1) there is no such thing as an unnatural love of The King. All non-ironic love is perfectly natural and sane. I used to steal posters of him for my mother. And look how I turned out!
2) I was asked in a job interview the other day why i didn’t want to work in advertising, given that I’d written about it, and responded that I felt it wasn’t an industry that gave enough leeway to creativity and individuality. I didn’t get the job. It was a part-time nannying gig for the sprogs of some financial high-fliers. The moral of this story? Creativity, originality and a high-brow approach don’t appeal to the moneyed classes – but they will be sorry when their taxes have to pay for my unemployment benefits.

Comment by Ella

Good post, but I gotta be honest. I would not mind winning awards. I quite like being applauded and having my ego stroked. Nothing wrong with that.

Why not have sir Ken chair a alternative type ad award: even have a million euro prize annually. using greed for good type thing…

Anybody not liking to win and be recognized is a bit hypocritical. Just a matter of channeling those tendencies the right way….

You can all slag me off now for being superficial etc… 😉

Comment by Niko

That’s not a bad idea actually Niko.

Good morning.

Comment by Marcus

Thank you Mr Brown. Good afternoon.

Comment by Niko

are you mauled yet campbell?

winning awards is fucking great niko but winning them for real work or in industries that dont have any direct ad association is better. campbell, thanks to me, has won fucking tons of the bastards but his issue (because im telling him it is his issue) is quantity outstrips quality so it all becomes worthless except to the fuckers who live inside the bubble and perpetuate the myth.

get awards but get them in industries where it means something and that way you can fucking prove you think beyond the usual channel bollocks.

here endeth the fucking lesson.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great point Niko and a superb response Andy.

Naturally not all advertising awards are worthless, but with the proliferation of scam that seems to get universally celebrated, the value of them are definitely declining. At least for the individuals who value substance behind their acclaim. 🙂

Comment by Bazza

I like Ella.

Comment by Bazza

Bazza the point is not that “not all advertising awards are worthless”. it is that ALL are worth something on an irrational level, be it for real or scam work.

Wanna change something then create the daddy of all awards, an award that sets you up financialy for life, gets you 70 virgins, whatever..anything that changes your behaviour from the current contests to better ones, as Andy rightly schooled.

oh..and nice LITTLE digg at my love of superficiality 😉

I don’t like Ella, she uses words that are banned on this blog like morals and high-brow.

Comment by

don t you think it is strange that people are eager to get awards for the work they have done? i mean, should this be the aim? a yearly basis is pretty short term anyway…
what do you get these awards for? what are the criteria? who are the judges?

i can understand the ego part to a certain extent. everyone wants to see that the work she/he is doing has some purpose. but should it not be something else, instead of awards?

an advertising award is not like getting the nobel peace price.

Comment by peggy

I survived … and infact, I had one of the most amazing times and experiences which is lovely to have aged 39!

Anyway, I have to say I agree with Andy and Baz – not because I have to – but because I think what they say is right.

I think what Niko is talking about is the satisfaction anyone feels when they are acknowledged by others … and that’s fair enough … however it is so much better when the acclaim is from a body of people who are not just respected within your particular field, or your particular location, but from a group covering a whole host of specialities because then you can honestly feel you’ve made a difference that has infiltrated the real World rather that do an ad that has simply appealed to the advertising elite of West Bridgford, Nottingham, ha.

So in short yes, awards are nice … the 25 meter swimming badge is one of my faves … but I’d rather get something that has significant value to others [preferably outside my core industry] than a piece of paper that only really means something to the recipient and his/her parents.

[Isn’t this actually why Niko suggested the Sir Ken thing in the first place?]

To make Niko feel better and feed his superficiality, I award him best ‘blogger’ of the day. 🙂

Comment by Rob

wait…should you not get some one outside our field, say the models of Victoria Secret’s, to give my award, otherwise you just snookered yourself..

though being the kanye west of advertising, I’ll take your accolade as well.. 🙂

Comment by niko

You’re right Peggy, but sadly not as many people in adland think the same way. It’s like the issue of remuneration … I want to get paid as a byproduct of what I do, not have that as the core focus of my attention.

Guess that’s why I’m not rich … even though that kinda suggests I’m not very good at what I do. Bugger. Ha.

Comment by Rob

i think it suggests that life can be unfair. though being rich is a matter of perspective and perception, as some might say 🙂

*prize i meant above

Comment by peggy

those fucking bears let me down but because youre behaving yourself and accepting im right ill let you off campbell.

word of advice niko. the people who chase awards never get the same respect like the fuckers who earn them on merit. have some fucking faith in your ability and dont fall into the trap of thinking any award is a good award. send your cheque via the usual fucking channels please.

Comment by andy@cynic

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