In My Opinion: James Pais: Valuing craft in advertising

OUR advertising contributes enormously to the Scottish economy; for the £1.7 billion spent on advertising in Scotland, the contribution to Scottish GDP was £8.8 billion – representing 5.6 per cent of our economy.

It creates jobs – 42,000, at last count and growing – and it makes our brands internationally famous.

It also showcases our outstanding creative talent.

We have seen our advertising as being a force for good and also embracing and leading the way with new technologies.

The importance of Scottish advertising should not be overlooked; in fact, it must be recognised, supported and valued.

We need to encourage the next generation of talent into our industry, develop them and ensure that the future of Scottish advertising continues to evolve, prosper and excel creatively.

Thirty years ago, I started my career in advertising at the agency, Young and Rubicam, in London. And it was at this agency that I met a man who has indirectly influenced the basis of the agenda that I will set out later.

Y&Rs head of production was a chap called David Mann.

David had an encyclopaedic knowledge. He was a ‘people person’ and a perfectionist.

He knew the portfolios of practically every photographer, illustrator, filmmaker and printer there was to know and knew their strengths and their personalities and made it his purpose to seek out the next emerging talent.

He instilled in me the importance of meeting and working with really talented people, treating them well and knowing who the right people for the job were.

He valued their craft and championed the importance of craft to all of Y&R creatives, producers, media planners and account managers.

Craft was at the forefront of everything we did.

As agency and departmental heads, we are finding it harder and harder to instil craftsmanship into our work and junior talent, primarily due to the constraints of time and money.

It is up to us to work with our clients to help them recognise the benefits of spending time crafting their work, and the benefits it has to their brands.

Craft is what makes an okay ad an amazing one. As John Hegarty said: “An idea is only great if it looks great.”

Craft is something that we must invest our time in.

Now, craft in our business in not owned by the creative department. Creativity, after all, isn’t a department. In planning, account management and media buying, creative opportunities are everywhere.

It can be how we craft our presentations, write up our RFPs or conduct our meetings. It’s all about ‘raising the bar’.

One just has to look at recent digital outdoor work – like Ogilvy and Mather’s Look Up campaign for British Airways and WCRS’s digital poster for International Woman’s Day which incorporated face recognition technology to make the bruises on a woman’s face subside every time some one looked at the poster above Canary Wharf station.

We see technology enabling opportunity, and creativity creating value; they really showed creative collaboration across all disciplines.

Remember, we are all experts in our field and when we harness that collective expertise and knowledge we can create something truly amazing and memorable.

Alas, the education that I received in my early days in advertising is now seriously lacking in our business, partly due to the fact that those with the knowledge are stretched for time or have left the industry.

Jules Chalkley, the chief creative officer for BMB, recently wrote in his article, Disregarding Craft is Costing us Creatively: “In all sectors of the creative industries, which are heavily tied to commerce, there is something big going on – across the board, from film to fashion, and from product design to gaming, craft has been invested in, lifted it to new levels and given space.

“They all understand that creativity also means making and that there is big commercial advantage to it. It builds fan bases, created uniqueness and delivers new audiences – and in doing so adds deeper values and increases a sweeter return on investment.

“Creatively, for the advertising and marketing industry, the world has never been more exciting; and, in our pursuit of new creative platforms and emerging tech opportunities, we have to make sure that our belief, and passion for craft comes along with us.

“Craft needs to be taught, if creativity is about having a different view on the world, then craft is how we bring that world to life.”

So, my agenda is to put craftsmanship back on the table and to dedicate time to training and inspiration in this art form.

Over the next two years, we will be organising a series of craft masterclasses, designed to broaden the knowledge and skills in the junior members of our agencies.

These classes will be open to all disciplines in our industry from creative and account managers, digital and media planners and marketing executives.

These masterclasses will be the foundations that will help them understand how to work in and contribute to say a shoot environment, or a recording session, or how to recognise and utilise the ever-changing digital technology.

But they will also cover best practises in writing briefs, casting and reviewing work. But, ultimately, the aim is to establish confidence in their profession.

For the first sessions, we have kindly have the support of the wonderful photographer, David Boni; Simon Mallinson, the owner of the production company, MTP, on TV direction and shoot etiquette; Pam Myers, of Rorschach Radio, on the intricacies of radio production; the ECD of the digital agency, AKQA, Wayne Deakin, on creativity in the digital world; and Chris Page, the founder of illustration company, Three Blind Mice, and judge on the British Arrows craft awards, on illustration and animation.

More speakers will be added as the year’s progress.

But to kick these sessions off, we have the IPA’s Nigel Gwilliam and the AI specialist agency, Filament, coming up in June to talk to us about the history, hype and opportunities that Artificial Intelligence can and will bring to us and our clients and to expand further on Sarah Golding’s presidential agenda on the ‘Magic and the Machines’.

In tandem with this, we will be hosting creative inspiration sessions, these will be a series of evening events focusing on the creative process, and will be centred around speakers from areas outside our industry, such as playwrights, musicians, comedians, filmmakers, sportspeople and psychologists.

The premise of these talks will be that we can find creativity everywhere, and that we can learn from it where ever we find it.

Personally, I have found inspiration in a variety of diverse sources from Francis Bacon to Patti Smith, Nick Cave to Nigella Lawson, Stanley Kubrick to my five year-old daughter.

They all have the ability to stop me in my tracks and wonder at their sheer greatness and skill in producing wonderful work.

This inspiration drives me to be better and to learn more and to adopt this in my daily life.

My desire is that these inspirational talks will have the same effect on those who attend. Lessons that you experience are much more valuable than those that you remember, ‘parrot-fashion’.

Now, unlike many new current administrations, I will not be overhauling the previous one.

In fact, I want to continue the legacy of my two immediate predecessors – Brian Coane and Claire Wood – and build on the amazing work that they have done before me.

The Commerce, Effectiveness and Talent forums will continue to develop and deliver on their objectives and will be chaired by Brian, Claire and Simon Watson, respectively.

The Student Awards will go from strength to strength and we will be inviting other universities and colleges from around Scotland to participate. The new brief for 2018 will be announced this October.

As you may have gathered, I am a firm believer in collaboration and, it is with this in mind, that I want the IPA Scotland to work more closely with the Advertising Association, D&AD, DMA, The Marketing Society and the creative social network event organisation, Glug.

Having an united voice, and working together to deliver great advertising here in Scotland, must be our collective objective.

You will see more partnered events that will take in a much more varied and wider audience and subject matters.

Which can only be a good thing for us.

James Pais. This is an edited extract of his inaugural speech as chair of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (Scotland).