The disciplines of above the line, digital and print have blurred so why not our traditional roles? We talk about being agile, but are we truly? We all know that advertising is a formidable industry, and a funny little bubble that takes itself way too seriously. A world that’s often considered elitist, divisive and classist, although I’m sure many of you would agree, is currently going through a massive transition, and there have been huge strides to change this playing field. From my personal favourite, Cindy Gallop, doing her thing, to the Young Creative Council making strides for youth diversity. Unfortunately, traditional agencies are about as diverse as the House of Commons. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting a different result, advertising must be insane.
‘Creative’ may be part of my current title, but I’ve not always been one. In fact, I started as a creative, tried out a bunch of other things and found my way back to it, but with ahell of a lot more experience and in my mind, a greater capacity to think in a different way. And different is good, especially when you mix perspectives.
MIT’s Building 20, dubbed ‘The Magical Incubator’ and according to The Boston Globe, “the building with a soul,” was just that. It was a hasty hotch-potch build for physics scientists during World War II, later housing all the great minds they couldn’t quite pigeonhole and – Ta Da! – the most perfect evolution occured. What we now call an innovation lab evolved organically and it became a place of incredible collaboration, ultimately changing the world we now live in. Who doesn’t want that spark in advertising?
What’s even better than the physical space being disruptive is people who disrupt. People who naturally shake things up. Whether it’s their background, experience, education, formal or otherwise, and what they bring. No one gets excited about labels. Excitement comes from hiring different types of people and the electricity the dynamics create. One of my favourite creatives used to be a forensic scientist and my ECD was a social worker. They’re both pretty big, cool career 180s. They’re also two of the most insightful thinkers I have the pleasure to know; forward thinking, fresh and exciting to have around.
Over the years it’s also become clear that no one mould fits all. 18 Feet and Rising’s way of mixing teams up across briefs keeps it challenging and is hugely appealing. I’m sure some might feel out at sea there, but there’s method to it, for the right people. I once commented to an ECD how much I enjoyed working with a team and how consistently lovely their work was, questioning why he never wanted them on the crazy(ish) briefs, always giving those to another team who were big party boys, only at their desks about half the week. It was quite simple. Team A were consistent, steady and in his eyes, the bread and butter guys. Team B, were his mavericks. The team who came in on a massive hangover, had a bacon sarnie and made him feel the magic. He’d pigeonholed them. The obsession with labelling appears to be far more about process. Imagine if he’d mixed those teams up with the opposite briefs… It might fail, but imagine if it soared. This is how it’s been for years. Without realising it, we have all labelled and confined, because advertising likes it’s boxes and this is a huge part of our diversity issues. What I want to know is who is brave enough to change the labels, apart from Cindy of course. If we can’t even accept that individuals can be diverse, how can we imagine to open up a closed industry to cultural diversity?
Alpha Century is changing things up. Everyone doubles up, functioning across two roles. Who doesn’t know an amazing account manager who moonlights as a project manager and vice versa? Imagine how much there is to be gained by working like this; continuity across projects, personal learnings and how much more we’d embrace our differences if we understood just how challenging each role is.
The old formulas are changing. Embrace it and enjoy a more diverse working environment. It’s something kids do really well and we happily admit that their creative capacity has no boundaries. They’re agile. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a born new business person, own it, but it takes all types to make magic and everyone has a creative idea in them. Open up your doors to people who want to try things a little differently, people who come from somewhere a bit different. Take a chance on someone with enthusiasm and excitement that rubs off on you. It’s infectious.
Ultimately we need to change our attitude. Coming from a mixed and varied background is often seen as negative and some even appear threatened by it, but for a key few, the perspective is polar and varied experience is perceived as useful, adding knowledge and a valuable skill set whilst ensuring things are a little bit different. Why are so many cautious of those who do it a little differently? Every single person on this planet is unique. There’s not one other person in the world who thinks exactly like you do, feels like you do, dreams like you do. It’s unfortunate that just like our industry we pigeonhole individuals when in fact no one is the same. If we open up to individual diversity the culture will evolve naturally.
Steph Hamill, Creative Director at Havas helia