Goodbye garret, this is the Nineties

Lonely suffering is no longer the lot of the creative mind. Advertising has turned into a team game.

In the arts, you're supposed to suffer. If you haven't clocked up sufficient hard garret time, your credentials are not seen to be established, no matter how accomplished your work.

Even in adland, which seems to offer an attractive combination of commerce and creativity, the path to a promised land has always been a slog - years of touting a student book around the agencies, followed by endless, nerve- filled months of subsistence work experience.

But times change ... and not always for the better. Nowadays, for instance, garrets are aspirational - they are marketed as bijoux pieds-a-terre for the urban middle classes. And the journey to artistic fulfilment is no longer complete without the millstone of an enormous unpaid graduate loan about your neck.

The Watford College of Art, which runs respected copywriting and art direction courses for would-be advertising agency creatives, estimates that its average student will start his or her job-search around pounds 15,000 in debt. Not that this has deterred applicants - the course director, Tony Cullingham, received almost 700 inquiries for the 30 places he was offering last year.

But after everything, after the years of penury and hand-to-mouth, half- priced fun, the ad industry creative, at least in the old days, got to have some fun. Even if this fun wasn't necessarily connected with the job in hand. They got to keep irregular hours, grow all sorts of interesting facial hair, and pay scant regard to personal hygiene. They were, you see, creative, and mindful of the fact that the sober-suited business decisions were happening elsewhere in the agency. Their job was simply to create: others could handle the mundane things, such as presenting the idea to the client, or planning the campaign.

But times change ... and sometimes they do change for the better. "The bright, forward-thinking creatives have realised that the circumstances have altered. In fact they have welcomed that change," says Tim Ashton, a partner at the recent start-up Circus, an advertising company that styles itself as the first holistic communications company.

"A new breed of creative has started to appear since the last recession," he adds, "in part because life post-recession has been a little less forgiving. A creative can't take liberties just for being creative any more.

"As a consequence, the misplaced arrogance of the past has had to go. For instance, creatives have to turn up for meetings on time and sober, which for many has been a new concept."

More important still has been the fact that the new creatives have recognised the opportunities that flexibility in their working practices is allowing. While it may have been fun for them to spend days locked in their offices waiting for a moment of inspiration to strike, they can actually make a greater contribution to the creative process by working as part of a team. That way, they also have a better chance of seeing the work they produce make it before the public at large.

"The new creative team is the planner and account-man's friend," Ashton says. "Which was never the case in the past.

"In fact, it used to be that the poor old account man would get it in the neck both ways: he was shouted at by the clients when the ad wasn't what they wanted, and despised by the creatives for agreeing to make changes to their labour of love.

"Nowadays the emphasis is much more on flexibility and collaboration. By opening their minds and office doors to anyone who's got an opinion, regardless of their discipline, the new breed of creative has stumbled on to something. They've realised that at their best, creatives can be better planners than the planners; and at their best, creatives can make better account men then account men."

It helps that there is also a new breed of integrated advertising agencies, like Circus, springing up to help promote the corporate virtues of flexibility and working practices aimed at finding overall advertising solutions rather than merely winning creative awards.

When Interfocus, a total communications agency, was launched 10 years ago espousing these ideals, it met a certain amount of bewilderment. Nowadays, it finds itself enjoying the shift in adland emphasis. It is claiming billings of pounds 75m, and works with clients ranging from Visa to Budget Rent- A-Car and Unilever, and employs more than 140.

"We try to keep pragmatism at the heart of everything we do," says Interfocus's managing director, Matthew Hooper, "and look on creativity as a means to achieving a given objective. That means that creatives can have direct access to the client, for example, whereas the traditional agency structure tries to keep creatives as far away from the client as possible."

If that signals the beginning of the end of the situation where the art director, designer or copywriter was left alone to commune at one with the muse, it is perhaps no bad thing. A decade ago, practically the sole gauge of a creative's worth was contained in the awards he or she won. For bringing home a prestigious gong such as the Design and Art Directors Guild Award, the creative team didn't just get the warm, tingly feeling that comes with doing a good job, they would also get a cheque of up to pounds 20,000, depending on the agency concerned.

Ads that merely did a good job for the client, that showcased the full range of a creative's design, marketing and presentational skills, didn't command anything like the same respect. Perhaps, the feeling is, they should now.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Life and Style
life

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week