Tuesday night saw Creative Social host their ‘You Lucky Ba***rds’ event with arguably their most influential line up yet at LBi. Patrick Collister, Sir John Hegarty and Steve Henry all showed to discuss why those starting out in the industry now have a great advantage over their predecessors.
With an air of jealousy that he was trying to convey, Patrick Collister kicked off the night with two quotes – the staple youth social commentary, Twain’s ‘…youth is wasted on the young’ and Howard Luck Gossage’s note that it is ‘not beyond the means of a man to change the world through communications and advertising’.
Presenting an example of the power of brands, he used his experiences growing up in Africa. Locals there used to buy cooking oil from traders, which was often spiked with axle oil which maximised profits. Unfortunately, this also maximised illness and death as a result of consuming such toxic materials. Unilever began exporting cooking oil in big drums which despite being more expensive, was a brand that people could trust that wouldn’t kill them – and as such became the market leader, trusted for its consistency.
Everyone will remember this. But do we remember or even know why it was made? A few months before the debut of this phenomenon, Cadbury’s had an outbreak of salmonella at their factories which they knew about and did nothing until this news was made public upon which sales dived and crisis ensued. Cue gorilla, sales go up, everything is forgotten. Same too with Toyota. And Nestlé. And Kellog’s.
‘People hate advertising but love brands…the way we communicate has to change’, Collister states, ‘brands need to take on corporate social responsibility.’
Moving swiftly back to the main topic of the night he left us with some encouraging words for up an comers – ‘So what I want to say is, life is pretty difficult but you have so many more options: you have the talent, the teachers, the platforms that never existed before….one person can change things. Out of the digital revolution we saw people bringing this mentality to advertising. Changing the world is a fit occupation for a grown man.’
Next up was Sir John Hegarty, a knight of advertising and as pointed out by Patrick Collister, a very smily man. His talk was certainly positive and possibly the most informative for students and young up-and-comers. ‘If you think you’re in the world of advertising, you’re already failing. The Golden Age of advertising is bullshit, Golden Ages exist amongst all generations.’
Harking back to his early days in the industry he enviously reminded us that whereas once training was needed to get into the industry (‘you had to start out as an assistant to the art director before becoming an art director), we’re already trained – we live in a world where you can’t help but be engrossed in everything around you.
It’s easy to be assimilated into society, take opinions from others and make them your own, so above all, Hegarty says that a point of view is the most important thing you can have, ‘creativity is an expression of self, have a POV! People say things because they think that they want the client to hear it, “…we have consumer understanding”, and I sit there and say to myself “fucking hell, he’s got consumer understanding!” No, we have consumer knowledge and we have to then interpret it. It’s what you believe that matters. Fundamentally you have to believe in what you do, do things naturally.’
‘You have 10 years of pure creativity (roughly…) but in our industry we have a bit of a problem – it’s not like the Stones [who can play the same things over and over], we have to [come up with new things] everyday.’ ‘You’ve got to be around great people…you’ll only get better amongst better people…there is empirical evidence to support this, and money is not the key. You’ll turn that 10 years into 15, 20.’
Hegarty left us with a flurry of advice: Don’t cut yourself off. Put the headphones away, immerse yourself. Walk around, observe. Look at different things. Read the Economist. Flip through the FT. ‘Creativity got better because people took control. They went out and did it. It was creative people. Why? Because they had a vision…’
The final speaker of the night was Steve Henry, voted 10th best copywriter in the world by D&AD. Famed for his love of startups, his talk focused around his experiences. ‘Now is the perfect time to start an agency. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. Selling it was one of the worst things.’
‘Chess is the biggest waste of talent you can find outside an ad agency’ – Raymond Chandler.
Again like the others, he started on a down note by describing problems you may encounter, yet with an air of optimism attached to it. The first 4 years of a creative’s career are the most important, so many people can be driven down, their creativity stymied and essentially ruining their essence.
He argued that immorality in advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing and showed us 6 examples where taking a slightly immoral tack can produce effective work. Love Jozi, the fake premium brand, Pink Tuna, BMW motorbikes, League Against Cancer, Peru, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty and Hyundai’s insurance scheme.
In an ode to mavericks, he asked us ‘what do we mean by creativity?’, responding with ‘Taking a risk.’ Reminding us that ‘Advertising is incredibly scary for clients…with a ROI of 56p/£ [how can you blame them]…They think ‘safe’ [work] is safe, but it’s not – it’s invisible…How do you get to ‘great’?…Take risks!’.
So how do we stand out amongst the 95% of crap that floats around? According to Henry, we need to break the rules to stand out, but do it in a way that connects emotionally. We need to hold principles and focus on creativity, innovation and collaboration all the while retaining a commercial focus.
But most importantly, just go out and make it…’Prototype! Make!’
Whilst being inclusive of all ages and experiences, the overall focus of the night was more useful to students and those starting out in the industry. Particularly with Sir John Hegarty, we really got a feel that he would relish the opportunity to start his career at this point in time. The speakers were frank about the difficulties on getting in to the industry but for the vast majority of the night, it was informative, funny and positive. My only criticism of the night would be that because of some of the great stories and advice being shared it would have been nice to record the night and make it available for all after the event, or even during using a streaming service – then again I supposed that’s why there are people like us to chronicle the night for you! Creative Social, to their credit donated a bunch of tickets to students from Bucks who swarmed the speakers at the finish and those in attendance should have left on Tuesday night brimming with enthusiasm and hope for their futures ahead.