Re-learning the craft

In part three of strategy's Future Proofing series, the ADC's Ignacio Oreamuno looks at the need to embrace education.

For the February/March issue of strategy, guest editor Steve Mykolyn of Taxi posed the question to several industry heavy-weights: how do you future-proof the business? They came back with their thoughts on dealing with today’s world of rapid-fire change, and here we present the third of the series.

By Ignacio Oreamuno

Advertising is one of the few industries that doesn’t believe in education. It’s an industry where a creative can go from junior to intermediate to senior to director to executive director to worldwide director without any professional training along the way. The creative heads of most agencies sell clients on why they should go digital and social, but have never tried to write code themselves. Many senior art directors and copywriters also have not stopped to learn about new technologies or re-embrace the craft. We are on autopilot and I believe the industry may be headed straight into a mountain as we all sip cocktails in business class.

The only way to future-proof ourselves is to fear the future enough to stop what we are doing and embrace education. A few programs like Swim, Hyper Island, and the Berlin School of Creative Leadership have popped up in recent years. But let’s be honest, it’s not right that I can count these educational programs on one hand. Advertising is a $500 billion industry after all.

Whenever agency professionals gives me a tour of their shop and they mention they have an innovation lab, a chief future officer and a digital transformation team I can immediately tell they don’t get it. Future-proofing can’t be assigned to a department or a person; everyone must embrace innovation and the way to do this is to rethink what our jobs are about. For example, what art directors do has changed over the years, but they don’t know it yet.

The homework:

I think it is very hard for a lot of people to accept the idea that to advance in their creative careers, they’re going to have to spend a few years not winning awards because they are learning new skills or working at the many new types of agencies and companies that embrace technology, art and craft, and develop new creative products. In New York City, people are quitting big agencies in droves to do more interesting things than advertising. It’s a shame that so many leaders can’t see this and are letting the industry collapse. It’s clear to me that we can fix this if we just admit we don’t know what our skill sets are and start over.

We’re trying to do this at the ADC. We’ve transformed from an award show and club into something much bigger – a school of art and craft. We have changed our name from Art Directors Club to ADC because we no longer believe in titles, or silos like design, advertising and creative technology. We all do the same thing, which is design beautiful things that communicate brands.

Ignacio Oreamuno is the executive director of the ADC in New York and founder of IHaveAnIdea. He has a passion for finding beauty in art and advertising, which fuels his goals to change, for the better, the industry he loves so much.

Illustration by Gary Clement.