Invest in your creativity now or you'll pay later

Thu, 12 Mar 2015

When I began in the ‘industry’ several hundred years ago, things were fairly rudimentary. You had to be very creative to be creative. Macs were coats you wore in the rain, trannies were photographs not burly men in tight dresses and Charles Saatchi was a respected adman, not a member of The Stranglers.

I was retelling a photo shoot story to the gang at Cavalry the other day. I can’t remember the product we were doing a print ad for (probably something to do with fax rolls – remember them?) and we needed a shot of three sportsmen’s legs as if ready to start at the beginning of a race. I remember sourcing a small piece of Astroturf and begging, borrowing or blagging a starting block and one pair of spiked running shoes. It was a Saturday morning shoot – we didn’t get paid overtime, it was just assumed you would work every single hour that God sent. There wouldn’t have been a latte or a sticky bun in sight. We were working from a ‘scamp’ of the ad which the creative director had produced, not quite on the back of a fag packet, but you catch my drift.

The three-legged man

We all decided Martin, the photographer’s young assistant, had the most athletic looking legs of all of us, so we set about shooting his one pasty, blonde haired leg on the block. All rather straight-forward you might think. But we needed another two legs. With zero budget for models, never mind models with athletic legs, we had to improvise.

Off I went to get the gravy browning and off Martin went to the bathroom to shave his leg – yes just the one. Now I need to make it clear that this was not done in any politically incorrect manner, nor were we being racists. We had a job to do on the smell of an oily rag and not much time to do it in. The next dark leg shot was dutifully snapped before we gave Martin a slight tint on his soon to be famous leg for the last shot of the day. I do remember having some misgivings about our methods, but I worked in an agency where the boss would have had nothing short of a shit-fit if we had returned without getting the shots we needed.

The 5” x 4” transparencies from the shoot were couriered (how quaint) to a bloke with a spinning scanner the size of a juggernaut lorry and somehow through his jiggery-pokery we ended up with 3 ‘different’ legs in 3 ‘different’ coloured running shoes comped together on a race track. This was a typical day at the office for us and all in a day’s work.

Return of the Mac

Then the era of desktop publishing came in and we thought we’d all be out of a job. Desktop publishing morphed into Macs, my creative director stopped scribbling on paper all day and through sheer hard work and perseverance taught himself how to work a computer to do his job – quite remarkable given he was 50-odd and had been in the game since dinosaurs roamed the earth. The chap with the massive scanner, downsized and invested in new technology to avoid going under, many of our suppliers – the typesetters, bromide produces, lick and stick artists - disappeared or were forced to retrain. The photographers kept going for a bit longer, until everyone bought decent digital cameras and iStock allowed for the online purchase of the most random of photos which could be made to fit any ad, brochure or sales literature.

I remember back then that a crowd of us old school ad people would go down the boozer most nights lamenting the lost of creativity and design in the industry with much tut-ting and saying things like ‘this is the thin end of the wedge.’

The creative world still turns

You’ll be pleased to know that the apocalypse didn’t materialise and that the advertising and, marketing industry has continued to thrive, mostly by getting good at adapting to change and embracing new technology. However, for all the greatness in creativity that can be achieved through new technology, I do believe that we have witnessed a compromise in quality. Photographers are a dying breed, and I was reminded of this only this morning when I was looking at some stunning photographs taken by our in-house snapper during a recent photo shoot. The DIY/Kiwi mentality of “I’ve got a mate who can do it cheap’’ has without doubt impacted on the quality of our creative output. If I hear one more “I’ve got someone who can do me a website for a couple of hundred quid, she’ll be right” I might actually scream.

I’m ranting. There is an upshot here, and that is, to put it simply, you get what you pay for. For the most part it’s better for your brand, product, service or business to speak to a professional, put your hand in your pocket and look forward to a good return on your investment.