Was it the shouting in corridors, the slamming of doors, the
dramatic cries of ’you can take this brief and ram it up your arse!’
that made the good old days what they were?
Winston Fletcher’s premise in a recent article in Marketing is that
those days are over. That we’ve all calmed down, that sweet reason
He places the blame - or credit - on planners and says that because they
meet the irrational and emotional arguments of creative people with
rationality and reason, the heat is removed from the process. In the
face of the planners’ logic, the creatives have become cowed.
It’s true the arguments aren’t as intense or frequent as they used to
be. The stories aren’t necessarily apocryphal: I know the copywriter who
threw his typewriter out of the window and the art director who
attempted to throw his writer out of a window. But it’s years since
agencies have rung with the clamour that accompanies these outbursts.
Has the tempering of this fury anything to do with the spreading
influence of planners?
Most creative people are naturally confrontational, so it doesn’t matter
what badge is worn by the person standing in front of us arguing, we’re
going to hit them anyway. Indeed, in my case there is nothing inflames
me more than having my irrational, emotional and utterly subjective
views being countered with smug fact and righteous logic. The more
convinced I am that I am wrong, the worse I am going to react.
No, the reason we’ve all calmed down is something far more sinister and
unpleasant: job security. When I first came into this business, you
could punch a client’s lights out because you knew the headhunters would
have another job for you within days. Nowadays, catch the creative
director’s eye in a bad mood and it could be the last afternoon you ever
spend in an agency. The business has contracted frighteningly in the
past five years, and an awful lot of those casualties are in the
So do creative people feel as passionately as they ever did about their
work? Yes. Do they feel as bitter and upset when it gets turned
Absolutely. Do they argue as much about it? No. They simply can’t afford
to. And as Winston says, that is terribly, terribly sad.
Emotion and argument are essential. So are heat and passion and
inflammation and abrasion. Teamwork for me in a creative endeavour is
overrated. If you want to get something done, use a team. If you want
something done brilliantly, with originality, creatively, I’m not so
sure. Often, the brilliant breakthrough is achieved by the bloody-minded
will of one person, ’the unreasonable man without whom no progress is
possible’ to compress Bernard Shaw in Man and Superman.
As Harry Lime says in The Third Man: ’In Italy for 30 years under the
Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - they produced
Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they
had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace and what did that
produce ...? The cuckoo clock.’
Andrew Cracknell is the former chairman of Ammirati Puris Lintas and is
available for lunch.