Welcome to the new golden age of advertising

From a speech on the future of advertising given to the British Design & Art Direction Association in London by David Stuart, its president
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The Independent Online

It's time we started taking ourselves seriously. What I would really love to see is a lot more people in our business thinking a lot harder and talking a lot more freely about what we actually do all day long. Because at this point in history, I think we need to be able to explain ourselves better.

It's time we started taking ourselves seriously. What I would really love to see is a lot more people in our business thinking a lot harder and talking a lot more freely about what we actually do all day long. Because at this point in history, I think we need to be able to explain ourselves better.

Because everything in our little corner of the commercial world is up for grabs in a way it's never been before. Maybe back in the 20th century we could get by on creative mystique - you know, "trust me, I'm a graphic designer" or "I work in advertising" - but that simply isn't good enough any more. These days, in the wired world, there are always a thousand alternatives - a thousand different ways the client could spend the money, a thousand possible routes to market, a zillion different ways of communicating just about anything that needs to be communicated.

It's exciting, yes. But it's tough, too; it means that nothing is ever simple any more. It means every assumption can be challenged. And that's why we in the creative industries need to start explaining ourselves better. I believe we urgently need to be able to say: this is what we do, this is how it works (well, roughly, since we'll never be able to put it in a neatly labelled box) and this is why it matters more, and is of greater value, than ever before.

For my part, I think there's a fundamental change going on in creativity; a move towards a more collaborative approach and yes, that faint jingle of harness and creak of saddle leather you might have heard was indeed the sound of a man mounting a hobby horse. My belief, which I'll no doubt be droning on about interminably over the next 12 months, is that we might just be entering a kind of creative Golden Age in which what matters is the idea rather than the person who has it.

Yes, I know that a lot of creative businesses would claim this happy state of affairs already exists - with everybody from the cleaning staff upwards free to chip in with ideas. And I suppose ad agencies can claim that the writer/art director team has been demonstrating the benefits of individual creative collaboration for decades. But I'm talking about something much scarier than that - a genuinely "ego-free" approach to creativity, in which the "ownership" of ideas becomes a fluid and amorphous thing.

I'll give you two reasons why I'm convinced that collaboration is the future of creativity. First, because clients are getting bigger. They are, aren't they? These days, the big ones aren't just big, they're very, very big.

And, increasingly, what these very, very big clients want for their very, very big communications projects is to put together a very, very big and carefully selected team of specialists with everybody doing what they're good at - designers doing design, ad agencies doing advertising, direct marketing people doing well, you probably get the picture.

Our clients want us to learn to work together - without bickering, without trying to stab each other in the back, without scoring points off each other - for the benefit of their brands. So we'll have to, whether we like it or not.

The second reason? I genuinely believe that working collaboratively, sharing ideas, produces better results. It's more difficult, but it's also more stimulating. And yes, I'm going to use the "f" word - it's more fun, too.

Maybe we should be looking to the theatre and, especially, the cinema for role models. Film-makers have never had a problem with the idea that theirs is a collaborative medium; that the lighting cameraman, the editor, the writer, and yes, even the location caterer, all have a contribution to make. How else could Pokémon: The Movie have happened?

But if I'm right that creativity in our business will be much more of a team effort in future, that does mean, of course, that completing D&AD entry forms will take an awful lot longer.

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