We Need to Lighten Up - and Focus on Creativity and Having Fun ; ON ADVERTISING

By Beale, Claire | The Independent (London, England), July 2, 2007 | Go to article overview
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We Need to Lighten Up - and Focus on Creativity and Having Fun ; ON ADVERTISING


Beale, Claire, The Independent (London, England)


Is there a connection between adland's creativity and its ability to have fun? A mental tour of London's best creative directors (a fairly sober, even miserable, bunch) suggests not. But that was an explanation offered to me last week to explain the UK's dimmed creative spark.

You see, British ad agencies are no longer world leaders in creativity. Only last year we Brits topped the Gunn Report as the most awarded country on the global advertising podium. But things have slipped.

Awards-counters will have worked out that UK agencies have put in a relatively mean showing so far this year when it comes to winning international gongs. At D&AD we were outgunned (or out-pencilled) by overseas agencies, picking up less than half of the 61 awards. The story was a more dramatic one at the Cannes Advertising Festival; not a single Grand Prix. No question: we're not world-beaters this year.

Somebody said to me last week that British ad agencies have lost their creative mojo because they've lost their sense of fun. At the time we were surrounded by creative revelry in the south of France; fun, it seemed, was not a problem. But I wonder.

Certainly our punative ad rules, the (absolutely correct) focus on advertising as an effective business tool, the intro-spection on the changing nature of the agency model have all clouded our ability to celebrate pure creativity. Sure, advertis-ing's not an entertainment or an art that exists in isolation from a business imperative, but it is at its best the result of a magical creative process that cannot be commoditised, time-sheeted, procurement- directed or held to ransom by a nannying state.

So the new government report on the importance of the creative economy to the country's financial health is welcome. Naturally it has a bureaucratic and uncreative title: Staying Ahead: The Economic Performance of the UK's Creative Industries. Yawn. And, naturally, it betrays a typical governmental forked tongue: in one breath the Government is furiously restricting advertising freedoms (and our new PM Mr Brown is unlikely to back-track) in another it is trumpeting its contribution to the national coffers. And believe me, you can't have it both ways.

But what the report does provide is a resounding, official reason to celebrate creativity, not just in advertising but in publishing, broadcasting, design, architecture, fashion, the performing arts, gaming. The report even tries to quantify the value of British creativity. According to Unesco, we exported $8.5bn in creative goods and services in 2003, compared to $7.6bn exported by the US. That puts the value of our creativity on a par with our financial services sector. That's something to smile about.

So perhaps we should loosen up a bit, focus on nurturing creativity again, having fun with it, and stop giving ourselves such a hard time about the associated business issues. Those are, of course, crucial to get right, but without creative excellence at its core the advertising industry really doesn't have much that's unique to sell at all.

RUSSELL RAMSEY has an endearingly cheeky smile, but I wonder how much fun he will have in his new job. Ramsey is the new creative director of the UK's second largest advertising agency, JWT.

Unless you're an adland creative aficionado, chances are you probably haven't heard of Russell Ramsey. Not surprising since he's third in the creative pecking order at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, behind the mighty, knighty Sir John Hegarty and the amusingly abrasive John O'Keeffe. Of course, being third in line to the creative throne at an agency like BBH is a rather more attractive prospect than wearing the creative crown at most other agencies in town. But after 17 years at the agency Ramsey seems finally set for a change.

Ramsey's creative credentials are unquestioned. His portfolio includes Levi's Twist and the famous "bull" spot for Audi and he's a relatively modest, guarded man to boot.

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