Monday, May 25, 2009

Creative Boulangeris (English Version)

According to the National University of Tucumán, there are about 10,000 students attending the career of advertising, when all education institutes combined.
Without official evidence, but based on common sense, in Argentina, there are just 6000 job positions inside advertising agencies. In the hypothetical case where all positions were vacant, only 60% of the students would have chances to dispute a bench in this highly competitive environment, which fluctuates amid a craft and professional basis.
Hence the first question: What to do to be part of the select circle and not be sentenced to work with advertising peripherally?
Sifting through concepts shown by international economics, marketing or advertising gurus, I want to highlight a simple phrase of Swedes economists Ridderstrale and Nordstrom: "Talent makes capital dance".
They argue that "talented individuals are mobile Monopolies with global passports", where companies adapt their needs around the skills of those few smart people. The business universe is always seeking for individuals with gifts to be capitalized from various angles: to enhance the knowledge of all sectors, to boost all the regular people’s skills and steer them towards a main goal or objective.
One of their other books "Karaoke Capitalism", has a revealing copy "Daring to be different in a copycat world."
The business reality today is based on a simple rule: the formula, which brought us good results must be maintained as long as it generates income. Precisely in this particular environment and rapid globalization, shareholders are thirsty for innovation, new ideas, concepts and paradigms to continue expanding their capitalist empire. And who do they need to reach such performance? Different individuals, who embody the messianic prototype to enlarge their properties, who embrace the phrase "think out of the box" and dare to go against established rules and regulations and to create new ones. Novelty is the routine’s enemy and the routine is the worst enemy of any human being. Although not everyone is encouraged to be "different" because of the risk involved, and often make a fool out of himself.
After speaking at length, I will focus on Argentina’s map to see how the above mentioned phenomena affects the advertising environment.

Around 1960 the notable copywriter Rosser Reeves was interviewed and asked about the Hall of Fame Awards of Copywriters, to which he replied: "All these types of awards harm the advertising industry. For example, recently one of our young copywriters wanted to win a prize at all costs and it took us over a year to take the idea out of his head."
During the 90s the great copywriters Carlos Bacetti and Ramiro Agulla made their appearance on the ads stage, and Fernando Vega Olmos and Hernán Ponce with less resonance. They won all existent festivals in which they imposed an absolutely distinctive creative imprint, which generated the attention of potential clients who would trust them their image and budget.
From that moment on and especially since the new millennium, many young people saw in these individuals a new meaning of work (funny and glamorous) which pushed doubtful students to start confidently the advertising career at a university. Many renowned senior copywriter saw a chance to make easy business when they realized that the high academic houses didn’t have the creative content which the students were looking for to become as successful as the creative champions.
Thus the well positioned advertisers, including Agulla and Bacetti, founded their creative "schools", which over time popped up like fungus. Due they are not regulated or evaluated by the Ministry of Education, the taught content becomes absolutely practical, leaving apart all theoretical basis.
Parallel to this move, I have to mention Latinspots and Adlatina (magazines about creativity and advertising in South America). They represent the superficial and shallow side of our business and also contain interviews, which mostly show happy copywriters exhibiting their Cannes Trophies and narrate how they prepared their trip to Cote d´Azur. In addition to that the proliferation of new advertising festivals or contests are an other trigger.
All this poured into a crucible melts down into a explosive cocktail, which reflects the actual ads environment: pedant and arrogant agencies who bragged about themselves in the 90’s worshipped by regular ads students, like A & B and VOP (Vega Olmos and Ponce), who despite all the awards achieved, lost a large number of customers, because they did not know how to retain them. What happened you might ask? Simple, they use as creativity as an end and not as a means. Therefore clients don’t reach their goals, the ROI is way down expectations and as a result agencies loses heavy accounts.

Going back to the Swedish authors, there is a consistent explanation to the last sentence: “when companies find a successful formula to increase revenues they don’t get rid of it”. Sometimes it’s appropriate to sacrifice profits in short term, because the goodwill of a company is also based on future income expectations.
For some reason multinational agencies, beyond belonging to Omnicom, WPP Group plc, Interpublic, Publicis, Dentsu and Havas, are often looking into the future while working on the present. For example, JWT is 130 years old and 80 in our country.
Here, the agencies unquenchably seek for the immediate success, subjected to our idiosyncrasy, no matter what it takes. What prevails is to have a few pesos (Argentinean Coin), after that they we see how the industry continues. Dues the ephemeral international success of Argentinean ads agencies, of course there are exceptions like Del Campo Nazca S&S or Dialogo.

Personal Conclusion:

Many young people start their career in one of those creative "schools" with the hope to end up as a rich and renowned copywriter or art director surrounded by models and exhibiting all the ads awards they won on a stained glass window. They want to embrace success, powered and leveraged by Latinspot and Adlatina. Instead of being original (in fact, advertising is based on originality, whether creative, strategic, or whatever) their creative concepts are based on exploited and predetermined formulas, making them unable to extract all their original potential, the scarce source of any business.
So, once they finished their “career”, they come out of the bakery oven like fresh and crunchy hot bread ready to swept with their “creative work” (the informal resume), which isn’t original because it was strongly influenced by senior copywriters who act as teachers and therefore avoid the virgin creative formula of the students from maturing.
Right now in Argentina, there are more than 20 creative “schools”. This pattern sheds light why few young people want to work as an account manager, media planner or account planner. It also explains the reason why the Account Planning Group of my country has only 20 members.
As a final result, we have a devaluated advertising based on lack of creativity and partial plagiarism and imitation.

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