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How to Have Fun in Advertising and Other Life Lessons from Vegas

Trends and Insight 327 Add to collection

Laura Swinton looks back on insights from Ted Royer, John Mescall, Matt Eastwood and more from the Creative LIAisons in Las Vegas

How to Have Fun in Advertising and Other Life Lessons from Vegas

I’ve come back from the London International Awards judging in Las Vegas with three things: an obsession with Betty Jane Willis, the designer of the famous ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign, a serious case of aeroplane flu and a brain that’s positively bursting with new ideas. The likes of Ted Royer, Matt Eastwood, Doerte Spengler-Ahrens, Mark Tutssel and Emad Tahtouh took to the stage (compered by the incomparable Ralph Van Dijk) to share words of wisdom with assembled young creatives  - and share some quality time in the bar afterwards. 

The most impactful talks of the week were packed full of practical advice about how to make the most of a creative career. John Mescall’s How to have Fun in Advertising was full of pointers that won’t just improve your advertising work but will make life a damn sight more enjoyable too. Stop sitting down so much, actually talk to people and knowing when to get angry over a binned idea (and, conversely knowing how to get over said anger quickly and healthily) were all pretty incontrovertible. But the most useful gem – and one I wish I’d known back when I worked for a company that had been bought by investors and was undergoing a long and stress-filled period of pruning – was the advice to make sure that you always have a second income stream. That way you don’t have to feel trapped by a soul destroying and creatively unfulfilling job, or feel pressured into taking a job just for the money. Plus his talk was accompanied by lots and lots of pictures of exuberant dogs, so there was that.

Ted Royer’s presentation was on ‘the 2%’, the tiny ‘tribe of tribe of people who give a fuck about advertising and a willing to do whatever they can to make it as great as it can be", which resulted in some fascinating back-and-forths with the audience. When the subject of empathy was raised (Ted reckons advertising allows creatives to exercise empathy and be ‘the opposite of sociopaths’), one young creative questioned the morality of creating unfulfilled need and dissatisfaction among public. Ted’s response was that ‘there’s absolutely no reason to do creative that makes people feel bad or guilty’ about being unable or unwilling to purchase a product. Yes advertising greases the wheels of commerce, but there’s no need to make people feel shitty.

Similarly Matt Eastwood’s talk on curiosity was pretty inspiring, but it was when the audience questions began to flow that things got interesting. For one thing we discovered Matt’s ‘worst ad’ (a jingle for Perth Zoo) and he reassured the junior creatives that everyone has some bad work lurking in their back catalogue – the trick is to keep getting better. Another key lesson arose when one young creative asked him what to do when his ideas never get past his boss – couched in fairly unflattering terms about said boss. The takeaway here is that while ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, when you’re at a fairly intimate event for a small, hyper-connected industry… try not to slag off your boss. Especially when the speaker (a global CCO) has invited his fellow jury members (fellow ECDs and CCOs) to listen in at the back of the hall. Just sayin’.

As well as sitting in on some mind-expanding talks, I also got to sit and watch the jury room in action – for the first time in my career. You’re getting no spoilers from me as to who won what, but watching the Production Craft jury, led by the fantastic Lizie Gower, dissect the details of the shortlisted work was a real education. I think I learned more about editing in the space of that hour than I have over my whole career.

The final lesson from the week was one that occurred a taxi ride away from where the judging was taking place, at the Neon Museum. An old boneyard full of retired signs from Vegas casinos, launderettes and motels of yesteryear, the museum is also a must see for advertising nerds. After all, the bright lights of Sin City tell a flashy and rather quirky history of out of home advertising, no? If outdoor is all about ‘the theatre of the streets’, as Leo Burnett’s Mark Tutssel says, then Vegas’ neon lights are the burlesque of the streets. The guided tour around the boneyard was also crammed with design observations and was a demonstration of the insights that old advertising can give us into human lives. 

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 14 Oct 2015 16:47:41 GMT