Confrontation is better for genius than a dull peace

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?

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

creative department.

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.


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