The Omnipresent Scourge of Creative Ennui

Maybe it’s the recession.  Maybe it’s the rampant fear among client organizations. But something has far too many agency creatives feeling listless, lifeless and dull.

I blame the internet.  Specifically: Web 2.0.

And no, that’s not because digital is such a confusing and specialized marketing platform: it’s not. The only people still clinging to that fairytale are the ever dwindling ranks of digital separatists.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79. Chicago AdvertisingNo, I blame the internet and the explosion of ideas it presents every minute of every day.  We are literally awash in new thoughts from all types of people in all sorts of places.  Today, when any kid with a cell phone camera can step up and jack a long ball over the Green Monster of cultural awareness, it’s pretty apparent that we agency types no longer have the stage to ourselves.

And speaking selfishly, that is a bummer.  We no longer enjoy the privilege of seeing our work presented in a tightly-controlled national public forum. There was a time not long ago when even a fifteen second spot for a toilet cleaner afforded you access to the rarified world of broadcasting, a chance for your thinking to be seen by tens–even hundreds–of millions of people.  The cost of production and the relative scarcity of media outlets afforded advertising an enviable third tier status in pop culture, behind movies and television.  It was a business, but it was also a creative enterprise friends and neighbors found mysterious and fascinating.

But now, when people upload 9,200 hours of original content to YouTube every single day (that’s well over a year’s worth every twenty-four hours)…when Facebook status updates can earn a sitcom option…and when comedians reference the Double Rainbow Guy instead of the Mentos fresh maker…broadcast advertising no longer enjoys any sort of exclusivity on idea presentation.  Everyone knows someone who’s a YouTube star, a kid who got his Tweet re-tweeted hundreds of times, or a blogger who earned a book deal.  Ideas are everywhere.

Today, unlike any other time in marketing history, attention can’t be bought: it must be earned.  And that can be a bitter pill to swallow…

But like all medicine, it’s best to just swallow hard and take it, so we can all move on to the clear water on the other side of this temporary lull.  Because if we’re fortunate to have a job in a creative department, that means someone thinks it’s still worthwhile to pay us for dreaming things up.  We still enjoy a job where we are employed not for the strength of our backs but the fertility of our minds.  And even if it’s tougher than it used to be, that’s still a really sweet deal.

Besides, in this economy, no one wants to hear it.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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