Advertising used to be a lazy man’s profession. In what other line of work could you exchange felt-tip sketches, drawn with a friend over the course of an afternoon, for a fully executed ad campaign, benefiting from the talents of the world’s best photographers or directors? Creatives were like babies, they were spoonfed briefs, which they converted into a product that they couldn’t be expected to deal with themselves. And for a long time they defended their complete practical incompetence. We did ideas, not execution. “Draw it on the back of a fag packet,” was the mantra.
But times are changing. If you’d like to see just how much check out the portfolio of Jacob and Jim (jacobjim.com), a young creative team at the London agency Work Club. They’re 22 and 24, meaning they were around eight when the internet first blinked into life. These are the ‘digital natives’ everyone was talking about, only now they’re after your job.
So what does their work look like? Well, most of it is closer to product design than advertising. Visa Go Next is an app that uses geotagged Instagram images to produce recommendations of where to, erm, go next. So if you’re at MoMA you can discover the best place to get a frozen margarita based on images of frozen margaritas nearby. Neat-o. Google Music Translate takes foreign language music videos and runs them through Google Translate to generate memes that answer questions like ‘What would Stephen Hawking do with Gangnam Style?’ And so on. In each case they’ve applied lateral thinking to the landscape of apps and web services to create something attention-grabbing. It’s an approach that has won them all the student awards there are.
So the ideas are great, but for me it’s their presentation that’s most alarming. Each brief is packaged in a short video with surprisingly high production values. No fag packets for Jacob and Jim, “With the tools available we don’t see why anyone wouldn’t try to make their idea come to life as well as possible,” they say.
Any creative director will see that these films have ‘pitch-winner’ written all over them. In fact, if all creatives could produce work to this level of finish, you could sack everyone else tomorrow. And while you may think that Jacob and Jim are outliers (certainly they are exceptional) bear in mind that London’s School of Communication Arts 2.0 demands that all its applicants produce videos as part of their entry requirement, because, well, why wouldn’t they?
If these guys do represent a trend toward a more capable creative, I think it’s a good thing. Scamps were a private language, interpretable only within ad agencies. Presenting work in this way makes it accessible to everyone. The deal creatives used to make with their agency was symbiotic: you needed them as much as they needed you.
But the less you need an ad agency to execute your ideas the harder they’ll have to work to keep you. And they won’t just be in competition with agencies, but the best of the tech companies. I’d hazard a guess that a team like Jacob and Jim could ride that gravy train all the way to Palo Alto.
‘Gordon Comstock’ is a creative director based in London. See @notvoodoo. Jacob and Jim’s work featured in this year’s Cream advertising graduate show run by The Talent Business. See crmag.co.uk/1dZxjt2