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Why All the Unhappiness in the Ad Industry: Part 1?

4 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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If you take a look at the advertising industry right now and the discussion around it, there's a lot of...unhappiness. If you ever check out Fishbowl, you'll feel the unhappiness.

Unhappiness about change.

And that's not surprising, to be honest. Because people make up this industry, and we all know how much people like change. But we also know that change is inevitable.

So, how are we supposed to react? How are we supposed to feel when the industry that we love changes into something completely different? Something that we weren't taught to handle.

Mad Men and Ad School

Most of us creatives got into the ad industry because of someone else. Someone who had this intense passion for it that inspired us to join the ranks of the ideators and put our brains to work.

And these people, they came from a world where advertising was simple. They painted this picture, similar to Mad Men: where someone could walk into a meeting with an amazing idea, say something like, "It's not the the Wheel, it's the Carousel" and the whole room would applaud. A world where nothing mattered but the idea.

But, of course, that's not the way it works.

As we grew into our careers, we learned about the realities of the job. How there were a hundred meetings before that, figuring out the strategy and throwing out dozens of rounds of ideas. And the hundred meetings after that, working out production realities and selling the idea to every level of the client.

We understood that we're in the business of sales, not just of ideas. But that the ideas are what sell.

And just when we started to get used to that fact, everything starting changing again.

Let's Blame Facebook

It was simpler when we were focused. When we had this 16x9, thirty-second sandbox to play in, and all the rules were clear.

And then Facebook happened.

Sure, the internet was around long before the big blue social media platform came onto the scene. But Facebook was the first of the platforms to truly become an advertising powerhouse, capable of serving creatively-driven advertising (yeah, you heard me, Google AdWords).

And on these platforms, we got things like data and targeting. And with that came analytics and trackable metrics. Things that put numbers to the creative we have a passion for.

And along with the Facebook came Snapchat and Instagram and Vine and TikTok and and dozens of other places that followed in the footsteps of YouTube and Twitter and LinkedIn. Places that took people's attention away. More little sandboxes to play in.

But we didn't want to play in any other sandboxes. We liked our sandbox. We knew the rules. We spent so much time perfecting it, understanding it, and building some really awesome sandcastles in it.

So, we decided those other sandboxes were for the kids. Let them copy our cool sandcastles. And if we have to build sandcastles there, too, well, we'll do it, but we wouldn't be happy about it.

Until we realized that didn't work so well.

It Isn't a Change to Everyone

And there's one big part of the unhappiness: having to change the way we create, where we create, and how we create. Just because people decided they liked to pay attention to other places than TV, too.

But there's a whole new generation of creatives coming into the industry, where this is the norm for them. They're growing up tweeting and sharing and linking and swiping and understanding that the world of media and consumptions isn't in one place.

And they're understanding that every place their attention lives is as different as the English language is all over the world. Sure, someone from Texas and Liverpool and Sydney are all speaking the same language...but they're vastly different in the way it's expressed.

But the problem is, these creatives aren't learning from people who understand their world. They're learning from people who have had to adapt to it. And some that haven't. And some that aren't happy about any of it.

We Pass On Our Unhappiness

We can be unhappy if we want to be. We can yearn for the "good old days" of creative, where we could bring this singular, amazing idea to life. Where "making brands famous" and "disruption" was all that mattered.

But really, what's that going to do? Not only for us, but for this next generation of creatives.

It's up to us to find that same passion for the industry, for creative, that got us into this world. And to figure out how to bring that passion into the work that we're doing now. Not ignore the realities of the state of the industry, but instead, find the opportunity.

Because we create the industry we're in. Whether it's an optimistic one or pessimistic, we will pass it on to the next crop of creatives.

Let's Get Out of Our Own Way

They say the only constant is change. That we can't expect the thing we love to stay the same forever. Growth is good.

But change is hard. We may not like the complexity and difficulty and logic wrapped around our emotional creative. But we can handle it.

We're creatives. At our core is the ability to solve problems. To see opportunities where nobody else sees them. To adapt, create, and find the magical in simple, everyday objects and services, and understand how to communicate that magic to others.

All that's standing in our way is ourselves. If we allow ourselves to embrace the opportunities and see how we can create the future of our industry, then we'll find the idea of unhappiness absurd.

And we'll find what made us happy to be doing what we love, once again.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this, say hello @thejeremycarson. LinkedIn Instagram TikTok