Dear Creative Industry; I love you, but we need to talk.
Last month, I was lucky / brave / drunk enough to take part in the first ever Glug Leeds Tech Off – delivering a talk entitled ‘Dear Creative Industry; I love you, but we need to talk’. It was the first time McDanimal & his crew had ventured that far up the M1, and boy were they in for a shock. No hipster coffee establishments on every corner (although there are a LOT of Greggs), slightly warm beer and weather that’s as grey as Theresa May’s godawful haircut.
If you don’t know what the Tech Off is then, really, where have you been? The ‘lovechild of TED talks and WWE wrestling’ attracts over 650 people at its London events. Previous battles have taken place at Cannes Lions, Festival of Marketing, and DMX Dublin and SXSW. The Creatives vs Coders events sees eight leading speakers deliver five-minute trash talks (or passionate speeches) on what makes their job / industry amazing in a bid to win over the crowd and, ultimately, win the Tech Off Championship belt (with the chance to return next year to defend it)!
Having seen a few Tech Off’s in London (one of which our CEO Alex Myers performed at and was ROBBED), Glug was chomping at the bit to bring it all up north as part of this year’s Leeds International Festival. We gathered two teams; one full of developers, the other (my team) full of creatives and hit up The Belgrave Canteen & Music Hall like Daniel Laruso hit up the All State Karate Championships.
My five-minute talk focussed on a few things that we, as a creative industry (I’m talking designers, advertisers, those in PR, EVERYONE in creative roles) kinda just fall back on. Things we do everyday that we probably shouldn’t do. Because, as an industry that many outsiders don’t understand, we dismiss people instead of trying to explain ourselves better. It was a culmination of what I’ve seen, heard or been exposed to after 11 years in the industry. So with an inane ability to retain pretty much all the useless information I’ve gathered and a deck loaded with Simpson’s gifs, I took to the stage for what was five minutes of sheer catharsis. Or a massive ramble. I can’t quite remember. But here it is in pretty much all of its glory. Enjoy!
Dear creative industry; I love you, but we need to talk.
We need to talk about design Twitter. Where if we’re not tweeting about our own navel, we’re destroying the work of someone we’ve never met. Maybe save that for a design blog comments section…
We need to talk about design blog comments sections and the hyperbolic vitriol aimed at logo redesigns. Has this always been a thing? Millions of years ago, did one caveman ask another caveman to ‘jazz up’ their woolly mammoth painting? And were there loads of paintings underneath saying the trunk looked like a cock and balls and that the fur traded could have been better spent on their NHS? Probably.
Thank *fuck* there wasn’t kerning back then.
We need to talk about kerning. And people who say ‘kerning is a dying art’. Art is interpretive, kerning is either right or wrong. There. Fixed it.
We need to talk about ‘fixing’ logos. Save that shit for Dribbble.
We need to talk about Dribble. Or as one designer dubbed it ‘wanking for coins’. A thing cited as ‘experience’. “HEAD OF DESIGN WANTED. You must have 1k followers on Dribbble and Behance to apply.” Why?! It’s mostly all concept work! Is concept work the new yardstick?
We need to talk about the ‘reminds-me-of-ers’. THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN THE WORLD THAT WE DO NOT REALISE HAVE HAPPENED.
We need to talk about the ‘icouldadonethat’ club. Newsflash. You didn’t.
We need to talk about your team page. Who cares that your hobbies are kabaddi and pigeon molesting? And stop quoting that scene from American Psycho!
We need to talk about job titles. Web ninja. Brand guru. PHP Poet. Chief Business Architect. CEO. CMO. COO. CFO. CHO. VICE PRESIDENT OF DESIGN. Vice President of design is actually a thing and it works at Buzzfeed.
We need to talk about 5 things I hate about Buzzfeed. Number 3 will blow your mind.
We need to talk about trends. And why everything looks like the intro to Saved by The Bell. And glory holes. And shit floating all over the shop like it’s been shot in zero gravity because in space no one can hear you kern. What’s next? A business card floating in perfume served in a man’s hat?
We need to talk about excuses. “That’s what they wanted” and “this campaign didn’t work because the client didn’t believe in it” are thrown about like buzzwords.
We need to talk about buzzwords.
Space. Are we in this space? How do we disrupt this space?
Inspo. Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t realise it was insporation.
People who 100%. Not today satan.
Guys! I’ve had emails that start and end with the word guys. Ugh.
Cross-pollination of content. Get in the fucking sea.
Stop trying to make ‘stop trying to make fetch happen’ happen. It’s not gonna happen.
But we keep dropping these phrases into conversations and they become a word virus that we inflict onto the world. They become agency life.
We need to talk about #agencylife.
“Guys! We’re at Elland road for one of the Drum’s million award ceremonies. Up for best low budget campaign that stars a cat! Wish us luck guys!
“Guys! We really want to work with this food brand so got loads in for our brainstorm! Here’s an arty shot of it next to our office dog guys!
On the flip side of this. Agencies that desk drop at other agencies? You evil meta fucks. They’re probably the same ones who float shit down the Thames and call it a campaign.
We need to talk about your CreativeProcess®. Giving it a fancy name, a registered symbol and some form of flow chart doesn’t mask the fact you essentially do ‘all the work while crying’.
We need to talk about being more open about our processes and what ‘brands’ are because the headline is never ‘X went through a full rebranding process including months of customer feedback, iterations and crafting of the final brand.’ It’s always ‘Xs new logo cost £20m. We could have given that to our NHS.’
But let’s do this without the grid lines and the shots of your creative team skateboarding to meeting rooms to ponder at post-its. It’s no wonder Virgin took the piss.
We need to stop acting like rock stars because we’re not. It’s not just our industry that parties all night at an awards do with Andy Crane.
Being the worlds most famous creative is a lot like being the worlds most famous dentist. What we do CAN change the world. But so can a smile and I don’t see the worlds most famous dentist charging $300 for a coffee table book on all the different smiles they’ve done. They just killed a lion.
So we need to talk about these things because if we don’t, we’ll never change and we’ll just become this horrible, insular industry full of snobs that treat anyone who doesn’t quite understand what we do with derision.
We’ll become… developers. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but it was a good night and hopefully made us all think that we can do better and be better. If you want to hear a bit about what else was talked about, check out the official Tech Off write up here.