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More signs of the crisis in creativity – but does anyone really want to do something about it?

Only someone wearing a balaclava the wrong way round would argue that there is not a crisis of creativity in advertising: standards have undoubtedly fallen in the digital tidal and there’s the rather worrying prospect of there being no next generation of outstanding creatives because, these days, they just don’t get the practice.

Generative AI could be on a home run.

As ever with these things it’s a good bet to follow the money and a new initiative from Ogilvy and ITV Studios is, at least, trying to address the issue with the formation in London of The Creative and Cultural Action Group, aimed at promoting a living wage for London-based creatives.

Not just in agencies, of course, but across the creative industries. Members include: Greater London Authority, WPP, ITV Studios, Creative UK, Artichoke, Guardian News & Media, Creature London, People Like Us, Youth Music, Bectu, Jerwood Arts, London Stadium, University of the Arts London, Living Wage Foundation and Citizens UK.

Some of whom, you’ll have noticed, are in charge of paying people and providing other needfuls, like job security.

Creative Salon

Ogilvy CEO Fiona Gordon (above) says: “I’m honoured to join a group that shares our commitment to driving London’s global reputation as a thriving hub for creativity and culture. As an accredited London Living Wage employer, we believe fair pay is crucial to a sustainable and inclusive industry that benefits everyone and, in my new co-chair role, I look forward to influencing others to follow suit and positively impacting the lives of thousands of workers in the sector.”

Ogilvy is owned by WPP and some critics might blame WPP for the way creative has slipped down the pecking order in adland over the last few decades. It makes much more money from media than creative and WPP CEO Mark Read admitted in a recent interview that his creative agencies only grew by 0.7% in the first quarter of 2023 although he said Ogilvy had done better. Havas, which is more dependent on creative than some of its peers grew by just 1.1%, Interpublic (ditto) fell back by 0.2%.

Creative salaries reflect customer demand, of course, but is it the fault of clients? Maybe but the emphasis the holding companies put on creative is their responsibility and for years they’ve concentrated on other sources of income.

Top ad and production company talent used to enjoy rock star salaries. To be talking now about a living wage is quite a sea change.

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