Chris Kay Saatchi

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A Time of Change?

How to use this moment of reset to evolve our industry and its creative reputation on the global stage

By Chris Kay

This new year, probably more than most, is one for a time of deeper than normal reflection as we all recalibrate our perspectives on our personal and professional lives coming into 2022.

Be it the Great Resignation, The Big Reset, The Great Reshuffle, or whatever moniker we prefer to capture our post-pandemic epiphany, it's incredibly clear that there is a moment of sizeable change within our lives that can ripple through to deep change within our industry.

As an industry we can either see this profound change as a challenge or as an opportunity to recalibrate how we evolve to increase our influence and value as we ease into 2022.

As someone who likes to fall on the optimistic side of the challenge/opportunity quandary, this feels like a great moment to reset and collectively design a brighter vision of what we can be.

To that point, and as a closet De La Soul fan, here’s a Magic Number of three potential resolutions for industry change.

The first is a hope that in 2022 that we truly deliver on capturing the real spirit of Modern Britain.

Having been away for 12 years in the US and Asia-Pacific, it's very clear to me that even as the fabric of our nation has continued to evolve it still doesn’t feel like our collective industry efforts totally hit the mark in capturing the essence of modern British culture.

As we evolve it’s on us all to look way beyond our industry echo chamber and go deeper into understanding how our country really thinks and feels in order to shape the cultural rhythm of Modern Britain, and make work that leads in cultural thought instead of just representing an evolved visual diversity.

Like a lot of us, I really enjoyed the energy in the collection of the Christmas ads and totally appreciate how hard it is to deliver an end of year campaign, but to be honest if we were being critical, most failed to deliver what Modern Britain feels like at this time of year.

Yes steps have been made, and there was a better representation of genders, races, different sexual orientations, but to be honest this ‘representation’ isn’t enough as it still feels like a ‘casting brief’ at the end of the process versus a ‘cultural brief’ at the beginning that delivers real insight.

More specifically, what we really saw was an increased palette of different looking Britons having the ‘traditional’ Christmas versus a deeper cultural representation of what it means to celebrate together at this time of the year. We all, ourselves at Saatchi & Saatchi included, need to work harder to ensure cultural diversity doesn’t begin and end with skin colour, it also needs to encompass the full panoply of social interactions and settings, and the different ways of life and moments of celebration that make up modern British society. Take a look at the Stonewall "Proud Mistletoe" work from Ogilvy which is a good example of pushing the agenda on what Christmas can mean for different parts of our society.

As we evolve it’s on us all to look way beyond our industry echo chamber and go deeper into understanding how our country really thinks and feels in order to shape the cultural rhythm of Modern Britain, and make work that leads in cultural thought instead of just representing an evolved visual diversity.

The second is a desire that in 2022 we continue to build confidence back in our industry to capture the value of creativity as the most potent weapon in commerce. Our industry, along with the rest of the world, has obviously gone through a number of recent challenges but as we move into a year of New Possibility with an economy growing at its fastest rate for nearly 50 years, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, and with Zenith forecasting 9.1 per cent growth for the global ad industry in 2022, this is a moment where true creativity can stand out again and confidently shape real commercial growth.

“But shouldn't that be the driver for what companies like ours do every year?" And yep, the simple answer is yes. Unfortunately though, that weapon of creativity is something that it feels like our industry, ourselves included, have at times lost sight of as we adapt to rapidly evolving market conditions driven by a rush to take the easier, safer, cheaper option, versus the harder, braver, investment that truly drives business change.

So as we come up for 2022-air this feels like the moment to reboot what we can all collectively do to raise the bar of output, to deliver a belief in what we all can do, and ultimately raise the value in the C-Suite of creativity as a key weapon of change.

The third is a belief that in 2022 as a community we can help build a resurgence in Creative Britain. What I mean by this is how we can collectively come together to use this moment to really push how we compete creatively as a nation on a global stage. I know that might sound a little challenging and maybe forgive my naive returning eyes but it doesn’t feel like we have been as strong creatively as a country as we have been in the past.

Culturally, we can all remember the exporting of Cool Britannia by the Blair government, or the Danny Boyle Olympics which captured our innovative creative energy to the world, but those feel like the most recent but obviously very distant representations of Creative Britain.

And beyond culture to our industry it feels like we have been behind the curve in our representation creatively on a global stage. For example, and not that this is a total barometer for global creativity, but when looking at either the Adweek 25 best ads of 2021 or the Fast Company Best Ads of the year, as examples, as a nation we have less than 20 per cent representation in these sorts of polls for our output.

Coming back and looking at the strength in both established and newer start-up brands and the talent in the market, it feels like we have the people, the platforms and the possibilities to compete. And maybe, if we collectively celebrate what we do and push each other to raise the bar, together we will elevate the brand of Creative Britain on a global stage.

Hopefully, by thinking about some of the above, we may be able to evolve collectively and collaboratively, and turn this moment of change into an opportunity to build momentum and celebrate the powerful creativity that Modern Britain has to offer.

Chris Kay is the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi London

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