Are You Having Fun Yet?

Yesterday, after reading in Ad Age that creative people in advertising aren’t having fun anymore, I made the following post to Twitter:
Which led to some excellent “at replies” from Twitter users @missjenny and @emanuelbrown.
@missjenny said, “Amen. My dad’s a welder. He gets to say he’s not having fun. I don’t.” And @emanuelbrown said, “The ‘No Fun’ article feels sycophantic to me. The fundamental issues facing marketing & advertising are conveniently ignored.”
Indeed. That some incredibly well paid people in Manhattan ad agencies don’t want to attend as many client meetings in order to be closer to the work is not now news, nor will it ever be news. So why bring it up here? Because it is news that many ad people live in precious little bubbles and that the trade press happily joins them therein.
In related news, one if five Americans are “confused” by the ads they see on TV, according to an Adweek/Harris poll. Now, that’s what I’d call a fundamental issue. We’re professional communicators but we can’t get through to a sizable segment of the population.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. That article has all sorts of unfortunate phrasings, but the takeaway was valid. Right now, many great creatives would rather work in film, video games, small businesses, or anywhere besides large agencies.
    For me, “happiness” was the wrong word. “Ownership” is a better one. (Ben had a great post on this subject.) No one has a right to be happy in their job. But to be excited about producing something, you need to have the ability to influence it. And ironically, it seems that many big time CEOs feel they don’t.

  2. Matt’s right on the mark. If advertising isn’t rewarding to creative talent, the talented have lots of other opportunities. Clearly money alone isn’t enough to keep them in these positions. If anyone’s in a bubble it’s agency management and clients who have no respect for the calibre of talent they’re paying for. If this continues, they won’t pay any less but they’ll receive only mediocrity for it.

  3. And since when did attending client meetings bring one “closer to the work?” Unless perhaps you meant to write: “closer to the evisceration of the work.”

  4. @Rupert my argument above is poorly worded – i’m not connecting being in meetings with being closer to the work, i’m saying people want to be closer to the work, not in meetings.

  5. Now that makes sense.
    And so does your initial tweet: it IS up to ad creatives to make work fun and fun work — and they’re doing just that — by quitting and doing something more creatively satisfying. Working on Maggie’s multinational agency holding company farm isn’t the only way to make ads. It’s just the old fashioned conventional way.

  6. “Maggie’s multinational agency holding company farm”
    I love that, Rupert.
    Clearly the Ad Age article struck a nerve with people, and in my own way my Talent Zoo article last week explored some of these ideas.
    I think what makes the Ad Age article so interesting, in part, is that some very notable creative people are explicitly admitting they can’t do their best work at what has traditionally been the ad world’s most prominent agencies.
    I wonder how much longer it’ll be until clients, the big ones, en masse, realize that they’re not getting the best work out of agencies that are under the holding company structure. But will they care?

  7. “…And she had fun, fun, fun until her daddy took the T-Square away.”
    -Old graffiti scribbled in a bathroom stall at Leo Burnett