Pharma’s invisibility cloak.

In the Harry Potter books, why we ‘muggles’ don’t see all the weird magical stuff happening around us is explained in one simple line.

‘Muggles see what they want to see.’

A similar myopia seems to pervade consumer advertising and Healthcare advertising.

Maybe I’m being sensitive.

Apparently, there were actually two whole categories at Cannes that happened the same week as the rest of Cannes, had work exhibited in the same basement as the rest of Cannes and actual agencies won golds and silvers and agency of the year awards and……noooooobody noticed.

You had to go through a door in an invisible wall to a strange alleyway, apparently.

How do I know this?

Well, in this month’s Campaign – the leading advertising publication in the UK – an article by the ‘Global editor-in-chief’, no less, Claire Beale, in a piece supposed to soothe our bruised English national pride after the world cup, and get us all fired up about the creative talent on our shores, pretty much confirmed it.

In the article she rightfully championed every achievement by our consumer cousins at Cannes. (It is comforting to know we were still good at something even if the football didn’t work out how we thought.) heaping praise on the awesome achievements of Adam&Eve DDB among other notable agencies.

But somehow we had our invisibility cloaks in full working order and there wasn’t a mention of any successes in the Health and Wellness or Pharma categories for some reason.

I think I’m definitely being sensitive.

But it’s not like she didn’t have her chance at inclusion:

“And UK agencies are strong across the whole bench, not just scoring in the traditional positions, such as Film, but taking gold (and above) Lions in Glass, Sustainable Development Goals, Titanium, Creative Data, Direct, Media, PR, Social and Influencer, Film Craft, Creative Ecommerce and Entertainment.”

Um…not quite the whole bench there Claire is it.

An English agency, Havas Lynx, won Healthcare agency of the year, you might not have noticed.

They even handed out a statue and everything

 

I’m almost certain that I am probably just being a touch sensitive.

It’s weird because a lot of the big agency networks are scrambling to get involved in the healthcare space. It’s where a lot of the exciting work is happening. They even won in some of these categories.

But in some quarters our presence at Cannes is still like we have just been let in the back door to a teenage house party because our older sister was in with the cool older boys and said we could gatecrash if we stayed in the kitchen and didn’t talk to anyone and only drank cider.

We’re the fucking Inbetweeners.

But it’s not just the journos at Campaign. During the Cannes judging I bumped in to a well known advertising Creative Director, with whom I had a passing and tenuous association with, via an old friend, and we work in the same building. She has been in the business a good thirty years.

“Oh, what jury are you on?” she inquired after I introduced myself.

“Pharma”

“Oh? What’s that?” she said.

It wasn’t meant in a mean or derogatory way, I could tell she just had literally no idea. All she heard was “Spells and Potions”.

I am aware this just all sounds like chippy, a little whiny and a little bitchy. Why do I care what Campaign thinks, I ask myself?

I don’t really know, to be honest. It’s this damn over-sensitivity I guess.

But for too long we have been meek and mild about what we do, embarrassed even. Our history of regulations, small budgets and lack of creativity takes a long time to fade and as we know, perception always trails reality.

We are so busy flying around on broomsticks and casting spells on people and talking in backward snakey-talk that the rest of the world is quite happy not being involved.

They see what they want to see.

So whatever Campaign thinks or doesn’t think, it’s time to start being proud of the work, the craft, the ingenuity that we have in Pharmaland and to ditch the sensitivity. Or as Claire puts it “ditch the negativity and self-flagellation…UK Healthcare agencies are creative world champions”.

Ok, I added the healthcare part.

It may be that they just don’t ‘get’ our world, so it’s easier to put us in the cupboard under the stairs and tell us to keep quiet.

Perhaps we should invite them to a big school in a castle in Scotland?

You never know, they might be surprised at what a little magic can do.

Why are creatives creative?

Does that seem like a daft question?

Why are footballers sporty? Why are politicians political?

In Campaign magazine dated 29th July 2016 there was a question put to Jeremy Bullmore in his on the campaign couch with JB column.

It read : Dear Jeremy A lot of creatives also write books. Why?

JB’s answers are usually insightful, witty and even occassionally scything, but it appeared that even he was unsure.

He replied: What a funny question. Why does anyone write a book? Fame, self-importance, immortality, irresistible urge…I think that’s about it…..(and then he continues to write about the lack of good copywriters due to the decline of long copy ads and the rise of ‘content’ etc)

In the same edition was a huge double page spread featuring an interview with Sir Ken Robinson talking about Creative cultures, the state of education and why adland should drop the ‘creative’ label.

Mostly the peice was about the lack of Education’s investment in the creative arts, and it finished with a claim about how creatives shouldn’t be called creatives any more and the whole agency should be creative, as labelling some people ‘creative’ inhibits other department’s creativity.

(If you have a few minutes to spare, while pretending to work, check out Sir Ken’s famous TED talk, now with upwards of 40 million views. It’s truly inspirational and touches on a lot of insights regarding the nature of creativity and how we stifle it in an attempt to prepare everyone for a ‘real job’.)

Now these two articles, related only by the subject of creativity, touched some deep irony nerve in my lower intestine and forced their way up to my larynx and popped out of my gob as a rather limp ‘hmmm’.

On one hand we have someone who doesn’t get why creative people need to create stuff beyond their job description and on the other we have a well respected guru who wants to end the label of ‘creatives’ within agencies. Because everyone is creative really.

Somewhere there’s a disconnect. And some confusion as to what distinguishes, if distinguishing is necessary, the rest of the agency from their ‘creative’ brothers and sisters.

It must be more than tattoos and pink hair.

JB’s first instinct was to suppose it was ‘fame and fortune’ that drives people to be creative.

He almost throws away the notion of ‘irresistable urge’ as a joke.

I mean, an urge? an urge is what you have when you want to climb a mountain, have a chocolate binge or play Fifa on the Playstation – isn’t it?

It’s a passing phase.

But to my mind he was closer with the ‘urge’ theory than the others.

Ask any creative in your agency why they are creative and they won’t really be able to tell you, well not definitively. But they will probably tell you they have always been that way, maybe not artistically in the traditional sense of painting or writing… maybe they made model airplanes, maybe they wrote songs or poems, or built contraptions or arranged flowers. Maybe they built tree houses or constructed Lego or cooked, I dunno.

Because creativity is an urge…

And the main reason people do it is rarely fame and fortune.

Yes, these are pleasant bi-products of the ‘urge’ but its not the prime motivator. If you already have a job underwriting Insurance and feel the need to paint in the evening, you my friend are a creative. You just don’t know it.

It doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at painting mind you, but you’re still compelled to create none the less.

Creativity is a lot like sex drive in that regard.

You create something, are momentarily at peace and then the drive builds again.

For some people it works for them to combine that drive with making a living, and like salmon swimming upstream to their spawning grounds they find themselves in the creative department of an ad agency.

So the answer to JB’s questioner, why do a lot of creatives write books?

It’s because they can’t help themselves.

Maybe, to Sir Ken’s point, your agency creatives are just the ones who didn’t have it educated out of them.

And it’s also the reason why they sometimes can be more childlike, more head in the clouds. More eccentric even.

We do all have the creative gene and the propensity to create.

But do we all have the urge?