Learn to roll with the punches if you want to step into the creative ring

Learn how to parry the blows because they will keep on coming, writes Red Brick Road's executive creative director.

The era when the status of the creative shined brightest is in the dim and distant past. Any feelings of resounding respect have most definitely been eclipsed by ones of overwork and underappreciation.

Don’t get me wrong, it can (and needs to) still be a fabulously stimulating role. The toughest and most coveted in agency land. Where opportunities to do great things, often with the best filmic and tech talent as partners on the journey, are bountiful.

Awards shows count – a chosen few coming with a cachet despite being a little self-serving, narrow and too expensive for many to enter. But we’re under fire. The march towards friction-free collaboration and opinions open to all is all but complete.

Everyone has a stake in an idea before it has been born. And everyone feels confident to subjectively peck away at it during and after the birth.

Of course, a great idea has many parents; a stinker, though, is solely the orphan of a distracted, disrespected creative team.

Talking of which, the jury’s out on the copywriter/art director partnership. No bad thing in itself. We’ve been toying with triumvirates ever since tech made its liberating but labour-intensive presence known. Yet the blur means more meddling from all comers, lack of control and dilution of quality.

What all these themes are contributing to is a tenacious trait the modern creative needs in their locker (talent and thirst for betterment aside) more than ever. Which is a thick skin. The super-resilient, tough-as-old-boots kind that they probably needed to get beyond placement in the first place. But that might have frayed over time. Certainly among the more mature group where I most definitely reside.

Because, paradoxically, at a time when there have never been more channels, more means of production and more need to connect with customers, never have there been more ideas flung back to the bottom drawer.

At an alarming, dispiriting rate. The reasons are manifold. Client creative departments, lean production companies and "comms" outfits eating our lunch. Clients in general having lots and lots on their plates – way beyond marketing.

At a time when there have never been more channels, more means of production and more need to connect with customers, never have there been more ideas flung back to the bottom drawer.

What’s more, as agencies, we all ply our trade in a ludicrously oversupplied market, meaning fake briefs and beauty parades nullifying work that was never going to run anyway.

It means a lottery when it comes to what idea surfaces. Survival of the sh***est just as likely as survival of the fittest.

What can we do? Not an enormous amount, I’m afraid. We – our forefathers, anyway – had it too good for too long. We yearn for a time when we were able to marinade a brief for days, knowing the spark could erupt at any time. Before labouring over days and weeks to craft something outstanding and unique.

Time has not only contracted, it’s as fragile a commodity as the work itself. Like I say, brilliance still occurs, stuff is getting made. Talk to people in proper jobs and it remains a privileged, rewarding, fun space to live and breathe in.

What’s happening is merely a reflection of how the wider world ticks: a busier, more bustling place where things happen faster but not necessarily better.

It’s probably fairer. Diversity seems to finally be getting the attention it deserves. We are in a sphere of innovation with pioneers a plenty. We just need to deal with the downside. Take the knocks, dust ourselves down and fight on.

Right, time marches on, have to dash. I’m off to break the bad news (again) to a creative team that their idea has hit the skids. Still, there’s a chance to go again – we have a whole day – though the brief’s not signed off and the media agency has a few thoughts. 

Matt Davis is executive creative director at Red Brick Road.

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