Spare a thought for young creatives

If you’re an older creative you know great creatives like David Ogilvy, Lee Clow, Bill Bernbach, John Hegarty, Dan Wieden, David Abbott.

And great campaigns like Nike, Absolut Vodka, Dove, Volkswagen, Apple, De Beers. Campaigns that changed the industry and brands forever. Campaigns that forged new categories and created billions of dollars of value and profits out of thin air thanks to powerful ideas.

You may have picked up a job in the creative department of an advertising agency as a bit of a lark. Teamed up with an art director or copywriter and quickly realized you had a gift. A slew of awards and boozy lunches were the order of the day. Glittering cocaine-fueled nights produced extraordinary work.

You worked hard, you played hard, you lived hard. You kept pushing the work to achieve more and more and didn’t see the changes that were coming. The downshifting of creativity and the uplifting of media. Financiers and management were coming into the business to clean up the balance sheets. Acquisitions and mergers came thick and fast. 

Senior and middle-weight creatives were replaced with cheaper and more compliant junior creatives. It’s easy to look down at our younger cohorts. Skittish and precious snowflakes. Spineless boys and girls. And theys.

It’s easy to mock the silly work they do, overladen with filters and insider irony. Yes, it’s reflective. Yes, it’s twee.

Yes, it’s barely graphic design let alone advertising. There’s never an idea, an insight. Nothing smart or witty or true. Nothing breathtaking.

It’s not their fault. These young creatives never stood a chance. They were mollycoddled into groupthink where standing out was frowned upon. Everyone was accepted. Even the fat kids.

Everyone was equal. Even the stupid kids. Everyone was creative. Even the dumb kids. They muddled their way through an education system bent on standardizing thinking and pressuring them to get into college. They undertook absurdly expensive degrees which closed their minds further while loading them with horrendous debts from college loans. (Imagine getting tens of thousands of dollars into debt to learn about the intersectionality of gender-specific typefaces.)

Then after stepping into the world burdened with all that debt, the only jobs they could find were becoming interns at substandard agencies and design firms, pumping out second-rate work as fast as possible. They kept their heads down.

When they finally got a real job, it paid so little they couldn’t even start chipping away at their college loans.

So they never raise their heads.

They never make a difference.

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