Whose influencer is it, anyway?

I’m going to come right out and say it: Advertising’s inability to turn creatives into stars is what’s hampering the industry.

Instead, we regularly laud leaders and figureheads, give ECDs and creative directors the zaga and the praise while the creatives–the ones who do the work–murmur in backrooms of the Durban ICC come Loeries season.

It’s bizarre.

To add insult to injury, when looking for creativity most advertisers default to influencers, quickly forgetting the slew of talented individuals they have working for them.

Yes, influencers have thousands of followers and are active in their scene. But how did they get there? I happen to have it on good authority that some of the influencers we look to are actually influenced by the people they work with–the very same people we work with.

I say that to be able to say this: Advertising isn’t as attractive as it used to be. While hearsay from the vanguard of advertising is that creatives were once rockstars–bouncers knew their names; parties, cars and magazine covers were abound–today we spend way too much money and time collaborating with influencers to the point where no one knows who we are.

It sounds petty, but in an industry where recognition is reward, actually being recognised for work goes a long way (never mind the fact that doing otherwise is a missed opportunity for agencies to create, mould and grow their own influencers).

You may argue why this needs to be done or might not see the importance of it. Let me put it this way: If AKA was a shit-hot creative at a heat-infested agency turning out fire work, how many creatives, agencies and brands would want a piece of him?

I know I for one would want to be brainstorming ideas with the Megacy.

The point is that the merit of looking inwards and investing a little more in the other things your creatives are good at, means you build your agency while they build their own image and that has outward-facing effects (by investing, I don’t mean asking them to DJ at your Christmas party for a bottle of tequila––shame on you all).

We need to start attracting people who exist outside the realm of advertising because honestly, advertising has changed. Its traditions are no longer the same, and this integrated what-what way of working is causing all kinds of hysteria in the kitchen.

The fact is there are people better suited to adapt to this format out there, but they don’t see advertising as an attractive proposition because they can’t find people to relate to.

Investing in your creatives also builds an incredible rapport with clients. I’ve seen it first-hand. When you have someone excelling at their craft, and making a different inside and outside the office, people tend to listen to that person.

Creatives tirelessly represent the agencies they work for, but how often do agencies return the favour? A little funding for studio time, advice on brand building, good business practices and even something as small as advising them on how much to correctly charge for their time makes all the difference.

We need to see more headlines like ‘Ses Honey and X Agency Collaborate on Upcoming Exhibition at Goodman Gallery.

It not only helps the brand grow, but creatives and the market too–making the ecosystem healthier, more sustainable, and more attractive for everyone involved.

My advice is this: Back your people. If you know they’re doing great things, give them a push. Their success is ultimately your success, because when they shine, you shine, and get to say things like, ‘You see that guy there? He works for us, and he opened for Bonobo.