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A Love Letter to Working Class Creatives

Trends and Insight 765 Add to collection

The Gate London's Beth Grace finds that there are more positives than negatives to 'sounding like a lady Sean Bean'

A Love Letter to Working Class Creatives

I spent my teenage years at a typical comprehensive school in Leeds. If it had career advisors, they were hiding out in some dilapidated classroom. The careers we were pointed towards were labour, care work, childcare. Maybe some office work if you did well in ICT.

I didn’t find out advertising was even a job until I was leaving college. I was 17 with approximately zero a-levels, a diploma in photography and absolutely no idea what to do. My parents hadn’t been to university, but I figured I could either leave education now and find a local job or keep the show on the road and do the same thing three years later.

Luckily when I went to UCAS and saw Advertising listed right at the top I figured out it had all the bits I liked about school, writing, people and art. And thus, thanks to alphabetical course ordering and my impulsive teenage brain, a new career path began to lay itself out.

Fast forward seven years and I’m a middleweight creative at a charming London agency. Wondering how different my day would look if the courses on offer had been in reverse alphabetical order instead. And even though being a zoo keeper would have been pretty lit, I’m glad I found advertising, because in it, I found my voice.


“Hello, yes, I do sound a bit like a lady Sean Bean”

When I first started working in agencies I learnt quickly that I wasn’t always going to be in the company of people like me (and that my accent might just be a long running joke… all done in love of course). For a long time I felt a little uncomfortable even speaking to defend my work against account execs that pronounced their words properly (and didn’t sound like a lady Sean Bean).

But as uncomfortable as those growing pains were, the discomfort was temporary. After smashing several briefs with my AD at the time (who was equally, if not a little bit more northern than me) I began to realise that whilst the work was good, who and how we were was a big part of our success. And that was in part, due to our experiences growing up working class.


Working class isn’t an insult, it’s a super-power

See, there’s a charm to the down to earth, working class people. It’s the reason we put ‘regional, (but not too heavy)’ into VO briefs for brands we want people to trust. There’s a charm to the types of people who grew up saying good morning to everyone they passed on the street. To the creatives who’ve made do and mended and who grew up knowing and love the kind of people we’re trying to reach in our adverts everyday.

When I see working class creatives sit down to present concepts, they’re considered and worked up and beautiful, but the delivery isn’t perfect. It’s confident, empowered and full of self-belief for sure. But hell yes they’ll hit a hard ‘o’ in ‘no’. They will emphatically talk with their hands, in a way that externally looks insane, but it’s passionate. And whether it’s work for a client or internal, they’re human, funny and engaging.

The very things that triggered my insecurities at the start, became the things I loved about creatives like myself. I started to realise that my rough and ready, confident clumsiness wasn’t a weakness, but a super power. And ever since I’ve been trying to nail down the essence of this unique but regionally universal tone of voice. As of now I’ve got it down to this philosophical, rambling, slightly emotional soapbox speech.

We are the kids of hairdressers, cleaners, dinner ladies and bus drivers. We get the train to Kings Cross and walk back to our council estates and shitty villages and we’re the same person at both sides. We sit at home and live the reality of life for most people living in the UK. So when a brief comes in for washing powder or oven chips, it’s a hell of a lot easier for us to think like the audience, because we are them.

This love letter to working class creatives is my plea to the people with the power to hire them. 63% of this country fall outside the title of middle class, so if you want work that speaks to the majority of men, women and other folx. Hire the every men, women and folx that are fighting their way to be heard. We’ve got something worth hearing.

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MSQ Partners, Thu, 02 Apr 2020 15:11:50 GMT