Regional creatives are spreading the rubbish virus

By Andrew Durkan, creative director, The Tribe

“You’ll remember this notion from a few years ago: If you sleep with someone, you’re sleeping with everyone they’ve ever slept with, and everyone that they’ve ever slept with, and so on. In the end you walk away with whatever germs may have been lurking about.

I feel like that every time I walk into a meeting with a client. It’s a contaminated environment. And for once, this is not a moan about clients. It’s about every other creative director who has shared space with this client. Because, with a few exceptions, they’ve spread the rubbish virus.

Let me start at roughly the beginning. About 20 years ago, in Soho, Sydney and Sandton, a group of talentless soaks had run out of chances and burned too many bridges. Their future careers looked bleak. But what if there was a place where mediocrity would go unrecognised, even be rewarded? And so they came. With accents talking the talk, a bit of rock and roll swagger, and stories of when they shot with Ridley.

And for close on two decades, they collectively produced a pile of unmitigated rubbish. Work that was bad for the consumer, bad for brands, bad for agencies, bad for the region and – the part that I’m particularly concerned about – bad for every single person who succeeded them.

Here’s what happens when an agency presents work to a client: they talk a big number two about ‘thinking outside the box’; they talk everything up as a ‘big idea’; and they do so with expertly honed confidence. They say everything a client wants to hear about their advertising and the clients lap it up. They’re the experts after all. And so the seeds of mediocrity are sown again and again.

Here’s a reality check. The ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign was a big idea. There were perhaps two others in the world last year. They’re very, very rare and they don’t come cheap. But the whole notion of a big idea has been cheapened by every single one that pretends to be, but is barely an ad.

In my darkest moments, I question myself as honestly as possible about whether, if I were the client, I’d buy the piece of work that I’m presenting. And I always get to thinking: ‘No.’ Not because of the work, but because I suddenly think that being constantly deceived by people in advertising must make it very difficult to recognise the moment when you’re actually exposed to even a reasonably good idea, never mind a great one.

As a postscript, the above rant only has relevance to the approximately five creative directors in the Middle East who actually know what they’re doing. Who are they, you ask? Consider this: if there are 1,000 agencies in the region, that would mean that there’s a half per cent chance that any given piece of business is being handled by someone who has the skill and talent to do it justice. I know who they are. So do they. The problem is that everyone else is pretending they’re one of them.

I’ll get my coat.”

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10 Responses to Regional creatives are spreading the rubbish virus

  1. Thank you Andrew Durkan. I could not agree more and could not have said it better myself. This industry could become better with a few more good men…(or woman for that matter).

  2. J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock says:

    There can surely be little doubt that Mr. Alasfahani (the Errol d’Souza of adblogs) was one of the five CD paragons Mr. Durkan had in mind.

  3. Nabil says:

    In my agency the creative is full of western expats. no one have work in a proper agency before. Then there are ones who have, but he is old jaded creatives who could never make it in their own countries. When they presenting even the crappy ideas, the lebanese GM just clapping in awe, without understanding the work. All white people thinking they are gods in advertising, but not even win shortlist in Dubai lynx.

  4. indiancurry says:

    Andrew: A senseless rant that I could not fathom for what or whom the missive was intended. The Best Job in the World of Queensland Tourism was a PR campaign that turned viral and thereby ensured Cummins Nitro (or Sapient Nitro) as the most talked about agency this year. But sadly it did not stop Queensland Tourism from inviting other agencies to pitch for their business. That shows the client was not over awed by the Job.

    What Nabil says is sadly true. And JPG, Andrew was not referring Louai Alasfahani as one of his five CDs because Louai is in Kuwait. Please do not insult the intellectual & creative psyche of few ad people in the Gulf by putting Paragon on a pedestal even if they shout themselves hoarse on their prowess at every given opportunity.

  5. Anubis says:

    wow i never knew that indiancurry had such strong feelings for me. it seems he is stalking me by visiting every single blog i comment on and is dedicated in sending insults while trying to sound tough while hiding behind his nickname. He is not really indian by the way. what baffles me most is the kind of language allowed on such a professional blog, sad – I would dislike this site to turn into another ads2blog kind of blog. there is a difference between freedom of speech and manner of speech.

  6. Merwyn says:

    @ Anubis – The 2 blogs mentioned by you are visited by many ad people, so if you have a misguided notion that I am stalking you, you have a problem. Secondly, indiancurry has been my nick since 12 years on IRC, Chat, Blogs, BBS & Newsgroups, so it is a comfort level, not a hiding place. Thirdly, I never insulted you personally, there is a difference between criticism & insult …

  7. East Cheam says:

    @ 12.21 Nov 17.
    Hey Merwyn/Indiancurry,

    Your first sentence was sound. But JPG is right: Andrew Durkhan did refer to “approximately five creative directors in the Middle East” – see his second-last paragraph. Last time I looked, Kuwait was in the ME, if not on Planet Advertising.
    But I guess you missed JPG’s sarcasm, which even Louai didn’t. The “Errol d’Souza of adblogs” should be carved on Alasfahani’s gravestone. Don’t you read 7DAYS? JPG’s point, which you sadly missed, was that – oh, why bother? read it again.

  8. indiancurry says:

    @East Cheam – I am not in Kuwait/Dubai anymore. Sadly miss the GN paper weight (Not 7 Days) as the Courier Mail main issue in Brisbane is not even equal to one of the GN supplements. I was in Kuwait for 11 years so know the B&W from the grey, thanks for the trouble taken to enlighten me 🙂

    Just trying to be courteous in my follow up mail because I wanted to point out the fine line between criticism & insult …

  9. Booyakkasha says:

    I really appreciate this article.

    There are so many people that don’t know a good idea in senior creative positions in Dubai.

    I worked under two that did, and I worked for 4 agencies.

    A Lynx means sfa really. Its nice to clear up in your own back yard, but no one outside of ME gives a fk if you’ve won a Lynx.

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