Are we the new miners?

I am not given to pessimism about this business but I had a premonition the other day.

I have been reading an excellent book I thoroughly recommend to you all entitled ‘South Wales Collieries – Volume 4’ by David Owen. Any of the series is worth a peek frankly – I just wanted this volume as it covers the Blaenavon area.
(Have you not got the point about reading weird shit yet?)
I bought it on a visit to the Cefn Coed Colliery Museum at the beginning of the month in a desperate attempt to indoctrinate my three year old into the wonders of British Industrial Heritage – he thought it was a little cold and rainy.
Anyway this book details every pit that ever operated in a very small part of the South Wales coal field and naturally there are loads and loads of them – South Wales being big in coal.
The book tells you when they sunk the shaft, who owned it prior to nationalisation, peak production, seams worked and at what depth, equipment employed all that sort of stuff.
Oh and when they closed down – because that is the end that every pit in South Wales has met bar the Tower.
Some were always a little dodgy and never really made the grade, some were abandoned between the wars, some were closed down in the couple of decades after nationalisation in 1947, but the vast majority were closed by the NCB between the end of the miners strike in 1985 and around 1991. In 1986 200,000 people worked in British coal mining, now it is just 3,000.
It is a very stark reminder of the wholesale and petulant destruction of an entire industry and its communities in a period shorter than the life of many mediocre advertising campaigns. All of it gone with virtually nothing left bar the odd museum and the landscaped spoil heaps.
So what about the premonition?
A series of books entitled ‘British Advertising Agencies’ published in 2010 and being a complete an unabridged account of the companies, lives and communities of this once great industry now reduced to a classified advertising agency in Truro and a team of freelance creatives in Hoxton.
Edited by Lawrence Green OBE, each page would detail a different agency, its foundation and founding partners, its greatest work, its acquisitions and acquisition and the date of its demise. HHCL went in 2006, AMV.BBDO in 2007, JWT was abandoned in 2008 though handful of staffers stayed on to prevent pilfering and set up the National Museum of Advertising. CHI bought Foxtons in 2008 and gave up advertising shortly after as they had never really enjoyed it, and of course DLKW, the last advertising agency, held out until 2009 mainly by writing musical greetings cards. In all, though a nostalgic tour de force, the collection of four volumes documents a sorry tale of decline in a once great industry skewered by its lack of ambition and incompetence.
Then I woke up.

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27 Replies to “Are we the new miners?”

  1. I hope for my children’s sake that the National Museum of Advertising will be a working museum (more Staffordshire Potteries than Big Pit) where a 30-second ad is cranked out in front of expectant schoolchildren in a scheduled live performances each day at 9:15, 12:15 and 15:15. A virtual ad worker just wouldn’t be auethentic enough.

  2. I can’t wait for the anamatronic David Abbott reciting his Chivas Regal press ad and the opportunity to dress the kids up like the nurchin in the Hovis ad.

  3. So taking that as a sort of Christmas Carol story what do you think the moral is for today?
    Currently there are two strategies; defend big TV campaigns vs go 360. Is there a third?
    Just idly curious, I stopped working in the pits years ago

  4. The third is to all stop being so bloody pessimistic and recognise the huge adaptability of advertising as a business tool. Advertising can and will become anything we want it to be – the issue is not the discipline but the people and agencies and their lack of imagination.
    We also need to stop seeing the discipline of creative persuasion through a media lens. TV is seriously challenged as a medium, but advertising executed in the MEDIUM of ‘film’ has never been more healthy.
    Finally we have to sort out the problem that all the talent is in the ad agencies but all the business is in the digital agencies.

  5. What an amusing but relevant thought!
    Thats also an interesting thought about the talent vs business ratio Richard.
    If the ad industry is the new mining, what does that make my Ad Pit?!

  6. Has anyone looked at the winning essays from the IPA Excellence Diploma delegates (published in a supplement with Campaign)? Would anyone disagree with me that the winning entry is a confused and confusing farrago of overwritten banalities? That’s to say, dreadful bullshit. And yet, it is acclaimed as ‘strong and original…an absolute gem’ by the finest minds in adland. What does THIS portend for the future of advertising?

  7. we have a clipping on one of our internal notice boards. The clipping quotes Advertising as the 4th least fulfilling job. Sorry, don’t know where it was printed.
    One below sales.

  8. ‘strong and original…an absolute gem’
    that particular ‘finest mind’ can’t spell Jem

  9. Saw the IPA excellence diploma stuff but not read it all yet. Interested in Tom Roach’s paper on memes. Only feel the idea is ten years old. I wrote that post on here come the meme doctors in 1997 and admitted to Colman I had sort of gone off the idea. Will inwardly digest and get back to you.

  10. Right – I am proper angry now having tried to start reading the IPA Excellence diploma papers.
    Ghastly, ghastly, ghastly a waste of paper and mine and the authors’ time.
    But the real propblem is this. It makes the judges look really dum – though in theory these are impressive and brilliant people quite a few of which I know.
    I can forgive the essay writers for the lack of originality in their ideas and the atrocious English (psueds corner anyone?) but not the judges in thinking this stuff is “impressive”, “original”, “an absolute gem” etc. etc.
    The ad industry is poorer now than it was the hour before the publication of this little supplement – not really what the IPA should be up to.

  11. Not sure I undersand James.
    The miners could hardly have said “we are reframing our role and are no longer in the coal mining industry but actually in the energy supply business and we are going to diversify in to solar”.
    The miner’s “problem” was that no one in UK government took a long term strategic view of energy production leaving us at the mercy of dwindling natural gas supplies and escalating costs.
    There may be closer parallels here with the ad business – the lack of long term vision.
    Oh yes and the Tories hated the miners for bringing down the Heath government and wanted revenge.

  12. It’s OK – by that point Naked will be the world’s largest, and only, communication integrator and consultancy, selling outsourced consumer persuasion solutions to blue chips via Cognitive reProgramming [TM] centres in various emerging markets, which by then will be in Western Europe, as the entire economy shifts into BRIC nations.
    So I’ll get them to sponsor the museum and fund research, in association with a consortium of high tech companies, into film 2.0 – immersive meta-definition audio-visual contentscape rendering.
    Probably 3D and that.
    Because, as you imply Richard, film is the medium – TV is a delivery technology.

  13. If you are willing to fund it we could consider naming it the Naked Museum of Advertising. All those in favour?
    And you could have a special section about urinal advertising – the medium that built the Naked Empire.

  14. I think you are unfairly limiting the scope of the section – it would need to be toilet media in all its glorious forms.
    Of course, by then we will be working toilet 2.0.
    Probably that thing with the 3 shells from Demolition man. Only with brands and that.

  15. Surprised by the strong reaction here to the IPA Excellence diploma supplement. ‘Ghastly, ghastly, ghastly’ seems harsh. ‘Dreadful bullshit’ is just rude.
    Agree the meme stuff in my piece wasn’t especially original – and am not surprised that people within the small world of a planning blog don’t think so either.
    In defence of the essayists in general it’s important to point out that the essays were not written for publication but as the final assignment on a year long IPA course. We didn’t ask to have our work published so please don’t blaim us for having wasted your precious time in making you read them.
    The supplement wasn’t aimed at the people on blogs like this – some of whom are probably at the cutting edge of comms thinking. It was aimed at the people who’re in charge of the meagre training budgets in the UK’s ad agencies.
    The supplement was designed to raise awareness of a brilliant course master-minded by Nick Kendall at BBH which takes people of a few years’ experience and gives them a rigorous academic approach to the business as a whole. The reading over the course of the year is vast – covering the classic set texts of the 60’s and 70’s right up to cutting edge of thinking today.
    Maybe the supplement misrepresented the course by choosing to focus on 5 of the 200+ pieces covering every aspect of the business that were written over the last year by the 30 candidates who took it.
    But it’s a course that’s intended to try and give the industry a future that’s not nearly as bleak as the premonition above: it’s a course that should be celebrated here.

  16. As someone doing the Diploma right now, trying to manage the work load and my job in a way that at least keeps some of my weekends free, I really hope that isn’t the response my thesis gets next year.
    I think Tom makes a number of very fair points – often on this very blog I’ve heard people lament that people in our industry don’t have enough knowledge of what came before, haven’t read the classic texts – the Diploma is the first step towards a genunine curriculum for communications, developing an academic and practical grounding for us to deliver advice we can substantiate and thus brings us back to the board table on a par with professional services that have substantial barriers to entry, like law and accounting.
    I’ve not read the papers yet – I’m stuck in the midst of the measurement module with an assignment looming [Tom – how did you get through that one!] and am trying not to pollute my thinking – but I’ve spoken to people who wrote them and know what level of work went in to them.
    And, as Tom points out, some of us spend all our time thinking about this, trying to push understanding of how communication works and will work, but many of us don’t. Perhaps the diploma pieces can begin some new discussions and help tackle the overwhelming cynicism that afflicts our industry.

  17. Fair point Tom.
    We are being way too harsh and my response was a little off hand.
    The course is admirable and thank goodness someone is think about this stuff and the professional training of people in our business.
    Why oh why did the IPA publish personal examination material in this way? Sure it may have been good for your profiles but the over the top way in which it was presented meant that unless you had written the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we would all be a little disappointed.

  18. Is it not half the problem that the people running and judging this course on a communications subject appear to be failing in the way they communicate the work?!

  19. I’m also doing the course this year and I really hope I don’t get the panning that some of the current crop have just had!
    Agree completely with my course colleague Faris on the role of the course and why it’s important – and also about how tough the current module is – and I personally have found it very valuable (if labour intensive) so far

  20. Tom in Richard’s defence (not that he’d need it) most of the criticism was aimed at the judges/commentators not the authors.
    These essays are what they are, most are worth a read, some have interesting ideas and one has a POD…
    I’m a fan of Richard Dawkin and Memes a great model to think about, even more so now (but did AMV honestly create the ‘Make Poverty History idea???…guilty of getting laid by association I think).
    The problem is the commentary raised expectations to a high level, and the fact that an essay of utter drivel came first was not your fault
    As you pointed out:
    “the cost to the consumer of waisting their time on irrelevant interuption advertising is too high”
    I think the “Faux Branding BS” proved your point.

  21. The monolothic, old-fashioned colliery that is AMV unearthing the sleek modern diamond of an idea that is Make Poverty History?
    Unbelievable, but true.

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