Doing the Cannes-Cannes and the Cokey-Cokey

“Coked-up advertising wankers”. That lovely little epithet was once used to describe the partners at a brand agency I once had the displeasure to work at. Thankfully, it wasn’t uttered by clients but in social media by citizens of the European city we were trying to rebrand.

In fact, the partners were just wankers. I don’t think they were particularly coked up – although sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is just ‘pure 100% uncut wanker’ or whether the white stuff has simply released their innate twattishness.

The annual booze and schmooze (sorry, I mean critical part of the advertising world’s calendar), The Cannes Lions made me ponder the advertising industry’s reputation. What do mere mortals think of ad men and women? Do they see ‘adland’ – which, in the UK, is pretty much a London thing – as a horrible, debauched moral vacuum like the City or the fashion industry? Or is it all Mad Men, martinis and mind-blowing creativity?
It’s a bit of both really, isn’t it?

I write as something of an outsider. Although I have worked for a large ad agency, I’m not dyed in the wool ad man. Statistics (not real statistics) show that there are quite a few egotistical plonkers in the agency world. Nacissism is omnipresent. Big words are often superfluous in a blog. Egotism is rife.

According to that bastion of factual accuracy, Wikipedia, “the ego separates out what is real. It helps us to organize our thoughts and make sense of them and the world around us.”  The ego and creativity are strongly connected. In order to put words or images on the page or express any kind of idea, you have to believe in yourself. So – it’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence. A delicate balance between a sense of purpose and being a control freak. So cocaine is absolutely the best-worst drug that creative, confident, colourful people can take. All too soon, cocaine becomes ‘dickhead dust’. To paraphrase the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown – ‘there ain’t no love when that stuff’s in the room’.

BBH has two priorities for the people it hires: to be ‘good and nice’. I reckon some agencies, and certainly some individuals, lose sight of ‘nice’. ‘Nice’ is no less important than ‘good’. Nice means you listen. Nice means you collaborate. Nice means you don’t love the sound of your own voice. Nice means you’ll accept that your idea – no matter how much you love it – may not be the solution. Nice means you don’t forget your manners. Nice means you don’t enjoy little power trips. And nice means not getting young people to work for nothing or close to it – by calling them ‘interns’.

So – ad people, my message is simple: be nice today. After, all, it’s only advertising. It’s not like it’s something important. And don’t overdo the Cokey Cokey – even when you’re doing the Cannes Cannes.

In next week’s blog – can ‘Suits’ be more effective after taking MDMA?

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