July 22, 2015

Harnessing Immaturity

It's sad to see the idea of "creativity" debased and dumbed down in the advertising industry.

It's particularly sad at a time when there are so many new media types opening new opportunities to apply imaginative thinking.

A thousand years ago, when I entered the agency business, being an advertising "creative" was a reasonably noble calling.

Sure, in the civilian world -- the real world -- advertising was considered a crass and ridiculous endeavor. But inside the industry it was widely accepted that the way to make it less ridiculous was to apply heavy doses of creativity.

It was also believed that the way to be successful as an agency was to be more creative than the next guy. Even the men in suits grudgingly accepted that. As one of my former colleagues put it, the key to agency success was "harnessing immaturity."

He was right. We were immature.

We whined incessantly, cursed loudly, drank enthusiastically, screwed imprudently, and spent too many billable hours on "unimportant details."

Immaturity is an ongoing motif in the creative arts. It's what makes artists both fascinating and insufferable.

Advertising creatives often are made to feel apologetic about their immaturity. Not me. I'm proud to have been immature. And in my advanced years I am proud of the residue of immaturity that still taints my character.

I've never met an interesting person who wasn't immature. All the mature ones bore me.

The nice thing about being immature was that the people who wore the suits and made the rules were regarded by clients as the real business people (the fact that most of them contributed little but decorum to the process didn't seem to bother anyone.)

So, happily, we creatives didn't have to worry our pretty little heads about the dreary details of flow charts, or slotting allowances, or TRPs. That was work for grown-ups.

But lately, creativity has lost its charm. Everyone and everything is now said to be creative. Data analysts are creative. Media planners are creative. Project managers are creative.

Except they're not.

You know how I can tell? They're not immature enough.


Adrian Langford said...


Paul North said...

I heartily agree. Except, I'd argue that the *best* Data Analysts, Media Planners and Project Managers are creative and even a little immature.

Sell! Sell! said...

*Fart noise*

steakandcheese said...

*shoots a spitball @Sell! Sell!*

Cecil B. DeMille said...


Mark Pilipczuk said...

I've had the opportunity to work with suits of the "creative" variety--albeit not directly in the advertising industry--during the days of the AOL/Time Warner merger. Make my analysts, planners, etc. of the non-creative variety, thank you.

Stephen Eichenbaum said...

Yup. I blame the self-esteem movement that hands out trophies for 17th place and tells everyone they're "special" Today, everyone is 'creative"
and the word is now meaningless.

Mature Guy said...

At least at my agency, I can tell you there's a definitive downside to the "new media types that open opportunities for imaginative thinking." My creative department now thinks they're media planners in addition to everything else, and their plans would cause John Wanamaker to waste his entire budget.

CCBOAK said...

I still subscribe to Modern Immaturity, and I pay my bill in pennies.


RM Pitts

Kiki said...

Media planners not immature? You haven't worked with the media planners I have had the pleasure. Yes, I mean you Bruce Kalfus , Matt Sterling, Jeremy Shubitz, Ben Hui, Lee Slovitt, Jordan Harris,and Aaron Anderson I know you're all reading this.

Jon P said...

That very thought dawned on me shortly before I quit the ad agency biz. Everybody had become so mature. And politically correct. And boring.

thegrumpygirl said...

Meanwhile as an actually creative person (immaturity and all) it is nigh impossible to get hired by an ad agency (at least in this town).
“…but can you also do analytics/social media/planning?” is all they want to know. Bitter? I’m not bitter! Whatever makes you say that…