Where Advertising Could Be

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with a Millennial who had  fled the advertising and media worlds of New York for the startup scene, and we asked her to reflect on her six-year career in advertising.

She had actually graduated from a liberal arts college in Ohio with a degree that prepared her for the advertising industry, having studied art, journalism, and the meaning and purpose of advertising. At her college, she told us, advertising was sold  to students as a way to change the world through art. So she didn’t just drift into it as many of her compatriots did.

However, after her first job in a small creative agency, things went steadily downhill. She drew a picture for us of a world in which agencies were turning out completely uncreative products, so as not to offend their clients. The projects she thought she would work on when she was in school — public service campaigns in which great creative actually helped people in poor communities find jobs — gave way to repetitive assignments that eventually killed her faith in the industry.  She began to wonder whether advertising still had a place in the world. After four jobs in six years, she fled to become an account executive at a tech company with a remote team that allowed her to work from wherever she wanted to live.

She immediately deserted New York.

We found this very sad, and yet easily correctable. Advertising provides many young, creative, and well-educated people their first jobs out of college. These talented people come into the workforce bringing all their enthusiasm, as well as their insights into how they feel about brands.  These customer insights, combined with data from the brand’s existing customers, should be harnessed to produce “creative” that is truly creative. It would be like letting artists interpret the world instead of making them paint existing interpretations by the numbers.

We’ve always said that the secret to advertising is good creative. Especially in the world of digital video, it’s not really pre-roll that’s the problem for consumers — it’s the bland, uninteresting and often irrelevant content of the pre-roll. Agencies have a responsibility to present “cool” creative to their clients, and brand marketers have a responsibility to go by more than just numbers. We would all be better off if this was how advertising worked. And actually, that’s how it used to work.