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The creative dynamic

Once upon a time, I worked in a traditional ad agency with a traditional creative department. As in Mad Men, it was staffed largely by chain-smoking, misogynist alcoholics. And that was just the women.

As the years passed, the agency model changed. Out went the old-school creatives and the media departments, with their loud shirts and hair gel; out went the excessive alcohol consumption and (thankfully) the smoking. In came a new breed of professional: younger, with better skin, often Antipodean or South African and much less likely to spend the better part of 20 hours a week in the pub.

The downside of all this was that the atmosphere in the workplace changed irrevocably. Agencies have always been staffed with intelligent, creative types, but the humour, raucousness and occasionally tension that made each day memorable have been eclipsed by the constant tap tap tap of keyboards and sandwiches eaten while hunched over one’s desk.

Anyway, the point of this post is that sometimes I get an occasional reminder of the industry we used to be, and this week there have been several. Breakfast are very busy at the moment – double dip be damned – and our agency model means that when the workload grows, so does our headcount. As a result, there has been a significant uptick in our levels of creative energy and mischievousness; none of which, I might add, has been alcohol-fuelled. And the irony is that this increase in banter (devalued and horrible word, I know), teasing and ‘old-school’ behaviour actually leads to better, more creative and original work.

In a week when the, let’s say, unreconstructed behaviour of someone in the media world has caused a bit of a hoo-ha, it’s somewhat odd to realise that if it’s inspired creative output you’re after, some of the new rules should be relaxed.

Here are some other rules that have met with general approval in the office this week:

The proposal that only art directors, designers or copywriters who have some sort of vocational qualification or level of attainment can call themselves such and produce creative work. “Like engineers in Germany.”

The revelation that one of our freelance designers had a major illustration book canned at a late stage for the legendary reason that it had “too many cocks”. There was some truth in this, which is particularly worrying in that all the illustrations were of people’s faces.

Any caricature is a good caricature.

 

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