The celebrity creative? We‘ve all come across one—someone whose reputation precedes them, who gets paid a hefty salary and always bags the best work. But what of the everyday creative—the one that works the good, the bad and the ugly campaigns, and navigates client demands with grace and without tantrum? And how does one position their roles in a contained agency environment? Is there even a case for a distinction between them?
A lot of people jumped out of advertising during the pandemic or were tempted client-side, and it’s no secret that it has become harder to recruit and retain talent than ever before. But are the celebrity creatives worth the hype? Or is the role of the everyday creative overlooked?
Network vs indies: work ethics explained
Network agencies tend to draw in more celebrity creatives, where the culture of awards is more commonplace. But these creatives can be expensive wins and as the old adage goes, ‘you’re only ever as good as your last job’. So there’s no guarantee that they will help in securing interesting clients or earning widespread industry recognition.
Based on the sheer number of employees at an indie agency, the work is distributed a lot more evenly with creatives sharing its bulk; they often go above and beyond job roles to complete campaigns on time and to standard. Independents may even invest more time to ensure their work and its value to consumers and clients are what they’re happy with, rather than going through a convoluted process to make it ‘award-winning’. Arguably, the work-focused culture found in indie agencies may even result in work that’s more in line with what clients actually want. The nimbleness of indie agencies is increasingly attracting well-known brands.
Sure, everyone aspires to work for an agency with a reputation for creating boundary-pushing work that sets new creative norms but that doesn’t necessarily have to come from a network agency.
Networks—with their international reputations and awards cabinets stacked full of trophies—might appeal to budding creatives but they are actually harder for entry-level applicants to get into. Not all creative types will feel at home there. Naturally, networks propel the work of creatives onto a world stage but at the cost of intense pressure, often imbalanced power dynamics and crushing client demands. Newbies entering the industry seeking work in a network environment often need thick skin, a loud voice and expert schmoozing skills.
While the same may be true within an indie set-up, the familial culture means that young creatives will have a softer induction into the advertising world; they’ll often be invited into creative chats and tasked with heavier responsibilities at a much earlier stage. It is also significantly less intimidating to share your thoughts and speak your mind having worked with a smaller team through thick and thin.
Responsibility and experience
Gen Z are increasingly seeking workspaces where their value and worth is acknowledged; where they can work hard and be treated with respect. Networks have a harder time adapting their in-house culture to satisfy new needs; they can be waylaid by bureaucratic and hierarchical processes. Whereas indies—due to their nature and size—tend to be more responsive and capable of cultivating an informal but professional space that nurtures creativity. They’re also more agile with making internal HR and welfare changes to suit the ever-changing needs of their workforce.
Indies treat creatives with compassion and empathy; providing junior creatives with ample opportunity for observation and interaction with their seniors and welcoming creative input. At most network agencies, new talent tends to sit much lower down the pecking order, further removed from the action and decision-making. While programmes are often in place for training and cohesion, it does take a lot longer to gain the attention of those ‘up top’.
Recruitment and retention
Recruiters may have a hard time positioning indie agencies, but the tide is certainly turning—particularly among entry level creatives. They are increasingly seeking more holistic workplaces that nurture and value their creative development. The pandemic’s shift towards a healthier work-life balance means indies are increasingly appealing to hardworking, motivated ‘everyday’ creatives because of their familial, no-pretense working culture. They’ve also become ripe training grounds for creatives intent on producing strong advertising with purpose. And brands are taking note.
Sarah Emmanuel-Cheong is general manager of UltraSuperNew Singapore.