I’ve got to run a series of workshops at a school careers day in March. They’ve asked me for a theme and a short piece describing what it is the kids would be signing up for.
You’d think these things would be easy, but more than ever before talking about a career in the communications industry throws up some big questions. If you were to ask me if I’d go and work in an advertising agency, I’d say no thanks. Would I work in advertising? Well now, that’s a different question.
Advertising is no longer the preserve of the print ad, billboard, TV spot or banner advert. It’s gone through experiential and come out the other side (well, I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of the vending machine concepts featuring the entire workforce in the case study for the agency that created it). We’re starting to see a broader and deeper type of work – from short films that don’t even feature the brand’s logo through to interactive offline games – and everything in between.
Where it was once possible to have an idea that consisted of a headline and an image, repeated in three different ways, now the idea has to solid enough to support all manner of activity. Is this even advertising?
So, obviously, I’m not going to suggest a career in advertising. What I am going to do is demonstrate to these kids that, with a few techniques, it’s possible to have a job that – let’s be honest – is fun. It’s hard work, yes, but I think it’s worth remembering that it’s (mostly) not life threatening or macabre. But is it advertising?
With the right creative skills, these kids can do almost anything. It’s worth remembering that 34 of the CEOs in the FTSE 100 companies have an arts degree. There is room for a creative thinker in the boardroom, as long as those creative thoughts don’t just end in an idea for a 60-second spot to fill the ad break.
Remove adverts from the centre of advertising
I’ve written about this before because I think the idea of creating an advert is so outmoded. Yet, that’s what drives the industry, spending millions on getting the eyeballs of sports fans in America each year. And yes, eyeballs matter, but not if you don’t have anything interesting to say, or a product that people will like. People are not so shallow as to be swayed by a minute of polished art direction and a Star Wars theme.
In fact, people have many sides to them. Why shouldn’t advertising be the same? If we consider, instead, the best way to put across our message then whatever is the right answer doesn’t need to be what we traditionally called an advert. It could be a play, a book, a TV series, a product (no, not an app) or an entirely new business.
I don’t want to tell kids that thinking creatively only lets them use it to create an advert. When I was in school, thinking creatively generally got you into trouble, unless you did it in art. I want to show them that creative thinking can really change the world around them.
And I want to show them that this could be done with a career in advertising, even if that career isn’t within an advertising agency.