Cannes 2014: what have Jim Henson, Martin Amis, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dr Seuss got in common? They all started their careers in advertising.
There was once a time when advertising could lure the best creative people in the world. Now, it would seem, we’re on the verge of a talent crisis.
One of the many speakers at Cannes who touched on the subject of attracting talent, was Jeffrey Katzenberg (left), the CEO of Dreamworks, who hailed YouTube as a fantastic platform for studios to discover upcoming stars. But when it comes to our industry, the big tech firms that have helped shape the modern age, like Google and Facebook, present as much of a threat as an opportunity.
Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer at Unilever said he had “genuine concern” about the ad industry losing its creative talent to tech firms. He noted there was a time when young creatives could go to an ad agency and build their careers from there, whereas now the talent pool is diluted. The problem, Weed argued, could be helped by encouraging entrepreneurship – referencing The Unilever Foundry, which offers mentoring and investment in digital marketing start ups in return for access to new technology and trends.
The merits of entrepreneurship in relation to creativity were also extolled by another big hitter at the opposite end of the industry, the legendary director and Lion of St Mark recipient this year, Joe Pytka (left).
At a press conference following his seminar at Cannes, Pytka said that the best ad people he met were entrepreneurs who were willing to dump clients they weren’t happy with. Now that ad agencies have become big multinational corporations the only thing that is important is profit, he said. He bemoaned the commoditisation of advertising, likening big advertising groups to trawlers in the ocean “scooping everything up with big nets.”
Have we truly lost all of the fun and the free-spiritedness of the age that saw Dr Seuss drawing ads for Ford and GE and Salman Rushdie coming up with taglines for Aero and American Express? Weed made a plea at Cannes to agencies find ways of making this a “really exciting industry to attract creative and ideas.” Let’s hope his call is heard and the trawlers aren’t allowed to suck the heart, soul and spirit of the industry up with them.