Josh Edge is the current President of the Perth Advertising and Design Club and has worked in WA his whole career. He would like the industry that he loves to continue to thrive and be one of the best possible representations of a small-market commercial communications industry in the world, despite occasionally writing grumpy opinion pieces like this one.
Drama. It’s intoxicating, right? The hot rush of adrenalin coursing through your veins, as you realise that A Thing is happening in real-time. As the he-said, she-said builds, the Linkedin algorithms kick into overdrive, the ‘likes’ build, and the anonymous comments fly thick and fast on Campaign Brief, it’s easy to think that something vital and exciting and important is happening. Fingers start pointing. Phones start buzzing. Sometimes, careers slow to a crawl. Occasionally, marriages dissolve and friendships break down. Almost every time, reputations get tarnished… sometimes irrevocably.
We’re all human, and our simian psychology is primed for the thrill of the hunt. But while these sparks of energy can feel exciting in the moment, it would be great for all of us to take a pause when these things arise. This year, like every year, there’ve been a few pile-ons in the local trades – from work that we didn’t particularly like, to last week’s spectacular escalation – that has cast an ugly light on an industry that doesn’t particularly need more negative press.
To be clear, I’m not here to defend the people or agencies that may have created any of the work that was ridiculed (even if I made it), the unnecessary drama of silly business decisions, inter-agency politicking, or any of the other excuses for a good ol’ fashioned pile-on. A lot of the time, the criticism is clearly warranted. I get it. I also work in an agency network that is not perfect, nor filled with perfect people (this is probably a good time to mention that the opinions expressed in this piece do not reflect the views and opinions of said agency). It’s what tends to happen next, the tone of the vitriol and the perception of how our industry handles its business, that is the issue here.
As someone who regularly finds himself promoting and defending (usually in equal measure) the work of the creative communications industries to other institutions, high school and university students, creative people from other fields, or government and private stakeholders who might be interested in aligning themselves with the world of advertising, I find nothing clever or inspiring in this type of misleading, anonymous, or downright cowardly commentary across the industry trades and social media.
At the best possible end of the negative outcome barometer, it impacts co-funding growth initiatives and exciting opportunities with industry bodies like the PADC, Ad Council, WAMA and IN:WA. It creates distrust with clients who rely on our collective intelligence and good judgement in handling their business. And, at the worst possible end of the stick, it impacts people’s personal lives in a negative and soul-crushing way.
We should be better than all this. We’re all smart, funny, human beings. It’s why we got into the business into the first place – to hang out with other people like us. So let’s be better.
As we crest the wave of 2022, let’s try to be a little kinder, a little smarter, and a little more creative in our interactions. Most of all, let’s concentrate on some of the stuff that actually matters in the creative communications industry. To get you started, here are some important issues to keep your brilliant minds active and away from drama:
1. The depletion of our local WA production, strategic and creative businesses to international and national production companies.
2. The crisis in university, vocational and industry-level education in properly training the next generation of communication professionals, and building effective pipelines into creative communications jobs in WA.
3. The perceived drop in quality (objectively: major international creative or effectiveness awards, subjectively: everything else) of major client brand work in WA over the past few years. Is this a creative confidence issue? Agency talent issue? Client education issue? Always happy to discuss over a beverage.
4. The ongoing delineations between media, research and creative agencies, and how these largely artificial barriers are impacting creative opportunities and wasting clients’ money.
5. The mental stress of overworking senior and junior people across the communications’ fields, as middle-weight talent is being hollowed out by the inevitable market realities generated by the previous four points.
6. The embarrassing lack of indigenous representation, training or agency internship initiatives across most of the creative communications industry, and the continued lack of diversity in general across the sector.
After years of watching the same old crap play out, I’m ready to see some actual, real ideas being discussed in these public channels. Some smart thinking, some bold potential answers, some funny suggestions, and some connections and progress being made.
Sidenote: For the love of all that is holy, try using your real name on comments in Campaign Brief every now and then. It’ll bring you respect from the people who matter. And if it’s truly that provocative, or so powerfully true that it simply can’t be said out loud from your own name – maybe send it to someone you trust who can say it. Or, if it’s just plain nasty, maybe don’t say it at all.
Just my two cents.
And, as a reward for sitting through all that, here’s some funny ad-related videos for you to enjoy or remember. Happy Holidays, everyone!