When I think of most industries outside the creative field, it becomes evident that repetition builds consistency and consistency in turn breeds mastery. The magic lies in one’s ability to consistently produce the same result, over and over in an efficient manner. Essentially, if you have been a teacher for 21 years (apart from technological advancements and adapting to them) you would, in my opinion, not have 21 years teaching experience, but rather one years’ experience and 20 years of repetition.
Conversely the creative field––particularly advertising––relies less on this principle. It is a world that demands of you to have an appetite for innovation and an intolerance for unilateral perspectives. My fascination with this world and its principles are what drew me to it: on a surface level it appears to be simple. Proponents of the industry may argue that that it is the catalyst of societal dialogue, as well as a benchmark of what is cool and what is last season.
Adversely, through the critical lenses of its opponents, it is an industry which is obsessed with smokescreens and mirrors. It is a destructive lab in which unobtainable images of beauty and grandeur are manufactured and distributed to the masses, perpetuating the cycle of insatiable consumers, and a world filled with people who are unsatisfied with the way that they look.
To me, the advertising industry is a battlefield on which the creative warfare takes place. In my position as an Account Manager I find that the greatest challenge comes from trying to reach an equilibrium. In many cases the client–agency relationship presents an inherent dichotomy as the client knows what they want and when they want it. On the other hand, there are the creatives, who vehemently defend their ideas that may, at times, seem too risky for the client to approve.
I am tasked with the duty of mastering the art of war on a daily basis, and ensuring that I fight enough for great ideas to be seen by clients whilst keeping their brand integrity intact. This, in an industry that has no extensive rule book, and where every day seems like diffusing a bomb where cutting the right wire could save the day or cutting the wrong wire could end up being explosive. There is no formula for a good idea or a good campaign––the goodness of a great idea or campaign often illuminated by conviction and the belief of the team who conceptualised it, along with a perfect mix of that being what the client is receptive to on that day.
I am of the opinion that the secret in ensuring that both parties coexist harmoniously lies in ensuring that everyone is aligned and knows what the vision is. Mastering my role entails marrying these two worlds and consistently ensuring that both sides uphold the ultimate brand vision as it was initially put forward.
Creative warfare is something which has existed for many years, and I am certain will continue to exist for centuries to come. It’s a battlefield of ongoing resistance and victories, but perhaps this friction is the one variable in the formula which shouldn’t change because of the magic it produces.
Maybe this is a tension that shouldn’t be frowned upon––and the preconceived notion that harmony produces beauty should be an exception and not the rule.
In my proverbial role as messenger on the battlefield, I believe that tension produces the best results.
To quote Gary Ryan Blair, “[creative] risk taking is essential to success in any goal where the stakes are high. Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity.”
If I am to err, I would rather do so on the side which throws caution to the wind and dares to stumble across something amazing, rather than be safe and guarantee my seat at the head of the table of mediocrity.
As the saying goes, ‘anything worth having is worth fighting for’, and every day, we remind ourselves of it before we go to battle to create the masterpieces of the world you live in.
Thandokazi Hlwatika is an Account Manager at The Fort.