Rather than picking a cause du jour and excoriating our industry’s practices, or writing some kind of know-it-all sales pitch about how YOUR AGENCY will be LEFT BEHIND unless you immediately implement PROGRESSIVE IDEA X, I’d like to tell you about something we’re doing right. Maybe it takes an outsider to see one of the real crowning elements of this industry with clear eyes.
You see, I’m a new copywriter recently come to the advertising world straight from my 3rd floor English Department office. That “Dr.” in front of my name isn’t some kind of nickname. And while I’m not the only one who has jumped off the good ship academe in favor of the more frenetic, yet greener, pastures of private business, there is one thing I’ve noticed that all my agency co-workers take for granted. People in advertising treat creativity seriously, like it matters, and are willing to give writers and artists the space they need to excel in their roles. I feel respected and appreciated. Daily.
I realize I need to clarify my position since so much of this is taken for granted around the office here. Some examples of what I mean: In a recent creative meeting, both the Art Director and the Creative Director said things like “Go wild” and “Really challenge yourself with this.” When I chimed in with some thoughts, everyone at the meeting looked at me attentively. It was a shocking moment as I slowly realized they cared about what I was saying. I tentatively let myself realize they were open to fresh ideas. About a week before that, my Creative Director asked for some copy that would really blow him away, and then encouraged me to take the time I needed to do it right. And these are not isolated incidents.
I’m imagining a sea of puzzled faces reading this article, so entrenched is the idea in the advertising world that creativity matters. But let me give you some more information. Not only was I a professor of English, I was a professor of Creative Writing, specifically poetry. I spent my days instructing students in the art of line breaks, alliterative structure, fluent thought patterns and vibrant language.
However, the last faculty meeting I remember attending was focused on how our classroom syllabi were all due on such-and-such a day and that these had to follow a departmentally approved format! Though we were obviously allowed to put our own personal “mark” on the material we distributed in class, this was not specifically encouraged. And while we were told we had to “produce”—meaning we had to publish articles, essays and creative work as a way to demonstrate our seriousness and commitment—when we did publish something, it was never mentioned or rewarded in any way.
When I broached the subject of developing a new class format to a colleague of mine, she politely explained how she had designed the old format and that it “worked well enough.” Ego aside, this clearly indicates the overall environment: zealously committed to the status quo, constraining us all to a system of stifling regimentation.
Granted, I’m having trouble finding someone around my office who will discuss the intricacies of Coleridge’s poetry with me. But I’m still convinced I’ve made the right choice and I think the industry as a whole should take a minute to realize that we’re doing something very and impressively right.
Any agency that realizes the value of the creative staff and embraces the full extent of what they need to do and what they can do, is creating an environment that will ensure delivery of the best materials to clients. You’ll have a happy creative staff, working in one of the few industries in which creativity still matters.
Dr. Nate Pritts
The Russo Group