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

Where have all the weirdos gone?
November 12, 2009, 6:26 am
Filed under: Comment

When I started in adland, I was surrounded by freaks.

OK … that’s a bit of a harsh word … but I couldn’t walk down a corridor without bumping into someone who had – or was continuing to have – an interesting and varied life.

Some of these people had spent decades travelling … some had a nice sideline in building weird & wonderful furniture … some were ex-pig feed salesmen … some were reformed lawyers/bankers/herbalists and you know what, together they made amazing things happen because they had interesting, varied and yet informed opinions & ideas on a whole host of things – not just things linked to advertising or people’s lives as described and defined by cliche ‘marketing babble’ or misguided, misconstrued research ‘findings’.

Now I am in no way saying there are not great things happening in adland today … nor am I suggesting that it is an industry devoid of ‘characters’ and intelligence … however in a World where adland feels only ‘graduates’ are worthy of having a job in this industry, it doesn’t seem that much of a coincidence that we have become more passive, pale and bland than we ever were.

Of course hiring a couple of one armed, goth, ex-magicians won’t make everything better [but that would be quite interesting wouldn’t it] … but I do think adlands attitude that to be taken seriously by industry requires people who think/look/act like those in industry is wrong and shortsighted, because what they actually need are folk who know how to understand & infiltrate life, not just talk & dramatise business.

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Some were gadget-loving, teetotalers with terrible taste in music and clothes.

Comment by John

an it nerd who used to be on the fbi wanted list.
a planner who used to design kids beds for fucking ikea.
a designer who is a part owner in a tatts shop.
a something or fucking other who is a groupie to a criminal profiler and played guitar for shitheads in the 80s.

these are a small section of the people who bother my fucking life on a daily fucking basis so let me answer where all the fucking weirdos have gone campbell. here.
i am the magnet of mayhem and even though you all give me the shits on an hourly fucking basis, id rather you in my line of sight than some wankers who dress, talk and fucking act like theyre donald trump but dont have an original or even fucking functional idea between them.

im agreeing with you again here rob. either the old campbell i know is really back or ive had a stroke.

Comment by andy@cynic

fuck me, now even evil dodds is back with a comment that proves he has no fucking life.

i really have had a fucking stroke.

Comment by andy@cynic

i never thought youd use that photo of yourself in public campbell. or is it dodds?

Comment by andy@cynic

Andy started off so well then got pressured into being his usual obnoxious self. Typical behaviour of an average person.

Go on … bite … you know you want to.

And joking aside, I do think this is a major issue, adland is too focused on only valuing university graduates as opposed to also opening their arms and eyes to graduates of life [who also may have gone to Uni but done a bunch of stuff since then] – and whilst that sounds unbelievably cheesy and in no way am I saying experience is more valuable than knowledge – I am saying that there’s a shit load of clever people out there who decided to explore a whole load of other avenues in life and they shouldn’t automatically be ignored simply because their intelligence is more suited to what is going on in people’s heads rather than purely what is going on in middle managements brains.

Comment by Rob

i fucking love it when you get your panties in a twist. maybe youve not changed that fucking much.

read one of my comments again campbell. “i agree with you”. fuck me, youre a big girls blouse. but with a really ugly fucking face.

Comment by andy@cynic

You have something in common with my parents Rob, you both are disappointed I’ve only worked in advertising.

You make a fair point, especially with the Stepford Wives production line many agencies are focused on turning out (all process, no instinct or imagination) but there are some fantastic people who have only had a career in advertising. Me for instance. ๐Ÿ™‚

Isn’t it less about the individuals going in and more about the agencies attitude, approach and confidence?

It’s nice to read you being passionate about making the industry better or at the very least, more interesting and valuable again. Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.

Comment by Pete

hit a raw nerve did he pete?

fuck campbell is on fire.

Comment by andy@cynic

It`s the same in every profession these days, the fault lies with HR `experts` who don`t have a fucking clue about the jobs which they recruit people for and instead recruit on arbitrary spec. First they repel potential non `corporate` recruits with poorly-worded management-speak job adverts which surveys have shown most people – including the HR who draft them – do not fully understand, then the big cut comes with screening out everyone with a 2:1 or less, then they simply throw out all the people who don`t convey `confidence` at interview – by which they usually mean a bland lack of nuanced personality of the kind which might come with having something in the way of life experience. The reult is that recruits become people who must sell themselves to agents, who then sell the people in their portfolios to HR staff in client companies, who must then sell their recruits to the departments within their companies (i.e., the people who actually understand the job which they are recruiting for). Any recruit therefore has to jump through multiple hoops set by people who are only looking for things they believe are marketable to their clients without actually properly understanding their clients needs. It favours people whose only real skill is marketing themselves – a skill which is related to, but not the same as, marketing something else for somebody else. It favours the spotless record above the flawed but brilliant.

Comment by FOARP

Weird is overrated. So is Pele. More than a 1000 official goals? FIFA is worse than the CIA.

Comment by Niko

That sounds like the sort of comment chasity teens say to justify why they’re not getting laid.

Comment by DH

I am guessing you are the art director of the crew, right?

sure as fuck aren’t the copywriter “the sort of comment teens SAY”..

go back to skipping English and smoking pot behind the shed..

good day

Comment by NH

having tried advertising agency life for all of a second, perhaps one of the reasons why advertising is full of advertising students is because you’re all trained on the machinations of agency life and can slot right in – hit the ground running.

coming from ‘the outside world’, agency life was we-ird. every 15 minutes was allocated, you had to communicate in triplicate, signatures were required on EVERYTHING and there’s a hierarchy that took me ages to work out. a lot of other professions don’t really operate in that way (except maybe legal firms and architecture practices, which says something). it seemed to be exclusion by process.

Comment by lauren

Well. Tim is in digital publishing. Pipes is dead. Ads is red carded. Rez sold out….the list goes on.

Comment by charlesfrith

You are in adland and therefore you are different or is it that you are (and think) different, you are in adland. We have more of the former…the latter is slowly becoming extinct and they truly were the reasons adland was fun and intelligent place to be.

Comment by Subbu

Oh. You deleted that last comment from.. let’s call him Copernicus. I was going to suggest Copernicus click the link and use his amygdala (or reptilian brain) to figure out who is what. Though I think he must have been slagging off Lauren cuz it’s unthinkable it would be me ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comment by charlesfrith

What comment? I haven’t deleted anything – did you mean this blog and what did it say?

Comment by Rob

i’m not following… someone is picking on grammar mistakes that aren’t there? people are slagging me, or charles, or both? niko is referencing fifa 10 again and you wonder why adland is faltering rob? phew! and i thought artists were kooky ๐Ÿ˜€

Comment by lauren

If Rob hit a raw nerve with Pete then David smacked an exposed nerve with Niko/NH. ๐Ÿ™‚

I agree with most of the comments but I feel Lauren sums it up best. For an industry that talks about being creative, it’s modern day approach and attitude is often more conservative and regimented than the industries they sneer at.

I suppose their redefinition of “creative” shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when they changed the meaning of things like “revoluton” and “brave” to something bland and easily digestable.

Comment by Bazza

What I find a bit funny is how even some of the most innovative places in terms for their advertising seem to all jump on the same bandwagons.

Right now, that’d be “product development(!)”. Which in most cases tends to be “gadget development”. Sure, most times it’s a cool little experiment that allows you to think up something that’s not an ad, and it was quite innovative when someone first did it a few years back. But I get the feeling – and maybe I am spectacularly wrong about this – that most everybody is doing it just so they can say they did.

Comment by rafik

good fucking point rafik weve been doing that shit for years, sometimes because we found it fun and interesting and sometimes because we thought it was such a good fucking idea, we wanted it for ourselves.

but we also have done some real fucking cool stuff for real fucking brands and thats why we get approached to change companies worlds while others just change their fucking ads.

campbells moped launches next year. a fucking moped, imagine that then theres the flu tracker bollocks george helped develop for google and weve just created a new business for a certain fucking billionaire who likes flying and music.

no ads. no propositions. a real, live, commercial idea that is not hype for us but cash in the bank for the boss.
ideas before ads, put that in your fucking pipe and smoke it bdas.

Comment by andy@cynic

its the moped he goes on about in his fucking psfk spectacular. no fucking idea where you can see it but if you put those letters in the search bollocks on this blog its bound to come up given the fucker has shown it about 10 million times on here.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m familiar with his moped idea. For some reason I assumed it’d already launched.

I guess production costs/ the time it takes is also one of the reasons many agencies won’t bother trying to launch proper (for lack of a better word) products and would rather concentrate on fun easy to produce gadgets, that’ll get them some hype + all the people who want to work there will buy them.

And to be fair, it can be incredibly frustrating & expensive to wait for something to launch. I should know, in the last year or so, a company we were working with literally stole what little money had for a project and it’s been an uphill battle ever since.

Comment by rafik

agencies are fucking hypocrites. they tell clients to advertise and do fuck all themelves. they tell clients to invest in the future and do fuck all themselves. they are corporate gold diggers with the business sense of a 5 year old.

luckily we knew what we were shit at and had george or georges best mate who made everything better.

moral of the story? choose partners with fucking important friends.

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] this post from a young Singaporean Woman I met in Bangkok earlier this year. It sort of chimes with Rob’s post earlier today, and makes it easy for people back home to understand why local Singaporean marketing agencies have […]

Pingback by Planner Reads » Blog Archive » Robots Wanted

Bazza, How can anyBody defend Pele? And FIFA 10 ? Cruyff beats him hands down. Let us keep things in perspective.

Comment by Niko

I’ve mailed you Lauren with the comment that slagged you off. It couldn’t have been about me.

Comment by charlesfrith

I think Pete is on to something when he talks about the primacy of process – especially when so many companies seek to differentiate themselves via proprietary process products rather than outcomes.

Such processes are all too often blandly rigid and require administrators and box-tickers rather than thinkers.

Base your process on thinking and philosophy rather than streamlined uniformity and you will find that you need the edge-dwellers to deliver on it.

Comment by John

You need people who understand & infiltrate business AND talk & dramatise life.

Comment by John

I’m impressed – this has caused some major debate which bodes well for tomorrow’s post because I am talkng about how ashamed I am to be a planner and how glad I am I no longer only associated with planning in Western markets.

Anyway to the comments …

I agree with both Pete and John’s thoughts – I’ve said for ages that too many companies are obsessed with the process rather than what the process produces and that is why Lauren and Baz’s words are sadly so true … because in my experience adland tends to be either horrendously rigid in its approach [meaning a pre-determined outcome is almost guaranteed] or totally chaotic simply because they think that is ‘wild and crazy’ and inkeeping with what an agency is supposed to be.

We are paid to help business make money. I believe this can be done in a way that can also benefit the wider society … however this requires a range of talents, not just those who have followed the ad grad route to success.

There is nothing wrong with those people – especially, as Pete mentioned, if they work for [or under] a company/boss who embraces breadth and depth of thinking as well as an openess to ideas, disciplines and possibilities … however to discount [as adland tendsto do] those individuals who have taken a less traditional route to adland is shortsighted, arrogant and delusional.

Some companies get it right … but sadly I would say in te main, they tend to be outside of adland. Hell, one of my google colleagues is a neuro surgeon who was brought on simply because the powers-that-be thought he might have an interesting perspective on stuff – or at the very least – get them thinking in different ways but with a defined purpose behind it.

As I said a while ago – adland does not have an R&D department and I believe would not invest in planning if it was created today. As much as there were many things wrong with the industry in the 50’s and 60’s, I would say they still were proportionatly more open minded, industrious and interesting than most of the industry today and whilst I cannot prove it, I would say a big part of that [on top of issues like where the World was at that particular time both commercially and socially] was the inclusion of intelligent freaks in their employment ranks.

This is not about hiring ‘free thinkers’ … this is about embracing ‘diverse thinkers’ but given this industry doesn’t like to face their own shortcomings and thinks anyone over the age of 17 is ‘past it’, I guess I am just going to have to see my decline as I watch theirs.

Anyway enough of that, really glad people reacted to it and a welcome to FOARP and Subbu, great to have you here and hope you come back.

Comment by Rob

im not saying all ‘freaks’ are brilliant, or all ‘normal people’ here or there are bland, because that would ultimately reduce the following to absurdity, but…

it might just reflect society at large… competing to be the best. defining ‘the best’ by (dubious) parameters, appearance, face value. meaning got lost and was then redefined using the picture that had been painted… that is weird isnt it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comment by peggy

“adland is too focused on only valuing university graduates as opposed to also opening their arms and eyes to graduates of life [who also may have gone to Uni but done a bunch of stuff since then]” – bravo and good on you for saying it. most agencies are chock-full of people who are very boring, and as a result churn out the same old boring (almost painfully boring) stuff. they were hired as graduates and stayed there. that’s why you need new agencies who have a completely new take on things – and approaches to hiring – rather than the BDAs, as George Parker calls them. nice one.

Comment by Anjali Ramachandran

Just read this on Naked Capitalism.

And when I was in big institutions (back the days of mastodons), I was struck by how leery they would often be of people who very bright and a tad unusual (and I do mean only a tad). It never ceases to amaze me how attachment to convention leads people to hire lesser โ€œtalentโ€ (that word has been so abused by Wall Street that I am a bit loath to use it) than what they might otherwise have.

Comment by charlesfrith

campbell back to his opinionated bastard best.
fresh meat making comments.
dodds being a sarcastic shit.
nh and pete getting fucking shirty.

we just need marcus and its like weve all gone back to a better time. mind you where the fuck is auntie, northern, mortimer and age?

auntie and northern i can understand. one is knee deep in baby shit and the other is a bald bastard at tbwa but mortimer and age? fucking kids today have no staying power.

anyway rob is finally proving he might be quite good at this insight shit because after this post the chicago tribune ran an article that might explain why us brits are the fucking best at this advertising shit.

were fucking freaks. its official.,0,5474168.story

yank wankers. thats fighting talk if i ever heard it.

Comment by andy@cynic

You were too hunky to stay in England.

Jemma x

Comment by Jemma King

you have always been my favourite

Comment by andy@cynic

Jemma’s only saying that to make me jealous.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Oddly the one thing that has always slightly disappointed me about adland it how few freaks there are in it. (I mean that in the nicest possible way)

It’s waaay better than your average job, but I expected a few more goths and metalheads and poets and the like.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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