Monday, September 08, 2008

Artists and Businessmen.

Recently, a forum thread appeared and it was titled "A hunded little ad fucks".
The following question/statement came up...

"I’ve looked at the portfolios of hundreds of agency websites and see the same thing, 90% of the work they’ve done is just pedestrian work, ranging from good to just okay. But then I come to the creative forums and read repeated comments about Ads and CDs only looking for creatives who can come up with the “CONCEPT”, and I’m like, “Okay, maybe I’m missing something here."

Here's was my response and thoughts on this...

Agency CDs are always looking for the "Concept".
Kids that are new to the business only care about the "concept". The concept is what they teach in school because that is what CDs are looking for when they are hiring.
There is a very good explanation for this and why 90% of the work that is produced is "pedestrian".

There are 2 sides (in my opinion...and all of this is strictly my opinion) to this business. The "artist" side and the "businessman" side.

A large percentage of the stuff we work on is mainstream. We don't admit it but it's true. Work at any agency and you won't be creating ads everyday that are award worthy (even though we'd like to believe so).
We try to push the envelope as creative people but the majority of our clients are very conservative. They have reputations to protect, and sometimes old school values and ways of thinking. Also, the salespeople are usually not creative people. They don't see things from our perspective. To them, "outside the box" means we strayed from their usual formula and moved their logo to another corner.

Now granted, every now and then we get the odd piece approved (miraculously) from these clients that warrants attention from our peers and award juries, but there are many proven formulas that work and drive sales that we usually have to stick to.

For instance, right now, I'm creating something that will go in a supermarket environment. My client knows through studies that certain colours and fonts we must stay away from. Certain looks attract the consumer and get them to make the purchase. I will not win any awards with this type of work but I will drive sales for my client. This is (bottom line) what the sole purpose of my job is about.

Another would be difficult to win awards creating an FSI for a client like a big-box superstore. However, they are a client that repeatedly advertises so as a "businessman", they are a great client to have.
I know that if I create an FSI for a huge boxing day sale, it will bring people into the stores in droves and I will sell millions of dollars in product. As a businessman, I'm thrilled.
As a client, they are thrilled. Awards in this case don't mean much. As an advertiser, I'm doing my job. And I'm probably going to be able to buy that Porsche I wanted.

Then there is the "artist" side.

The part of us that is highly creative, we can't simply do this "pedestrian" work all the time. We need to free the artist in us. We need to create. We need to push boundaries. We need to be expressive.
This is why agencies look for "dog walking clients".
They allow us creative freedom. A martial arts studio has no reputation to protect. They have no strict branding. You simply need to bring people in by making them think that this place is kick-ass. You can have alot of fun with this type of client.
These clients (as businessmen) earn us very little in the way of revenue.
What they do is bring us attention.

In this business, the most important thing you can do for yourself (and your company) is win awards because awards bring attention.

Awards allow us something worth it's weight in gold (excuse the pun). The power of the press release. The press release gets us noticed. It puts our name out there.
It gets people talking. It gets our agency in industry magazines. It gets us hits on our websites. And the best way to get this recognition is by winning. We can only usually win by being "Artists". Winning makes us look important. It sets us apart from the rest of the competition and gets the big-box superstore clients to take notice. So we can go after their business.

Young creatives only grasping the Artist side never make it long in this business. They do great work and then have to move aside for the new batch that will work cheaper and longer hours. The ones that understand the game and become businessmen, have very long and prosperous futures. I can name several agencies in Canada that opened when the artists became businessmen (and women).

So as a businessman (and CD), When I hire, I'm looking for artists. The "hundred little ad fucks" as it was put. The ones that can do great work and also win awards, which I will then PR the hell out of, so I can put my agency's name all over the map, to do what I am here to pedestrian clients that constantly advertise and make tons of money.
Both for them and for me. By sometimes having to contain the artist in me and use formulas that have been proven and work.
A happy client that sees results is a client that sticks around.

To sum up...
Be an artist and you'll get in the business and make a name for yourself.
Then learn to be a businessman and continue doing what you love, but with a lifestyle that many would envy.

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