Natural born bullshitters?

They may be less exciting but Tim Burrowes trusts media agency people over their oversexed, bullshitting creative counterparts. 

So this is a massive generalisation. But bear with me.

On the whole, I respect media people more than I do creative agency people. Have lunch with somebody from a media agency, and while you might be exposed to the occasional dose of ego, you’ll usually get a straightforward conversation. Do the same thing with somebody from a creative agency and the experience is often different. It may well be a more entertaining lunch, but the bullshit levels will be way higher.

As a journo, I work on the assumption that if somebody categorically denies a story to me, in the absence of any further evidence, that’s enough to kill the story. But if they turn out to have lied to me, then their denial is no good next time round. At senior levels, that happens relatively rarely. Obfuscation, yes. But provable lying, a little less so.

But… of the four agency CEOs whose word I no longer trust, every single one of them is from a creative agency.

The question is one of nature versus nurture. Does working in adland turn you into a bullshitter because everybody else is one? Or does that world attract natural-born bullshitters?

I suspect it’s the former. If your colleagues behave this way, then you get carried along too.

Good creative agencies always need an element of showbiz to them. They stop feeling like the real world.

To get ahead, particularly if you’re not the best of the best, you have to do your own PR. Even very average creatives act like they’re far better than they are. Because it’s so widespread, they even, I suspect, start to believe it themselves. Everyday morality may seem a little distant.

Sex and drugs are available a lot more than out in the real world.

I suspect many people would know which Sydney agency I’m thinking of when I mention the coke dealer on staff.

But if I were to talk about a culture of preying on the interns, I bet that doesn’t narrow it down that much.

In recent days, I’ve become an obsessive reader of a new blog called The Creative Confessional. It features anonymous confessions from creatives around the world.

There are those who use their power to get sex:

“I once had a junior chick do me a blow job to grant her a job in my agency.”

“I told a girl that she’d be in a commercial if she showed me her tits.”

“I want to do this co-worker of mine, and she has low self-esteem. I’ve been purposely lowering her self-esteem so she puts out easier.”

“I supported, helped sell, and executed a brutally poor intern idea just to expedite my voyage into her pants.”

There are those who take others’ ideas:

“I just stole a great, BIG idea from my junior team, changed it a little, and now it’s MY great, big idea. And I’ll probably win a few Lions for it too. Sucks to be a junior.”

“Took credit for a grand prix Lion I had nothing to do with.”

And those who are just overpaid:

“I am a CD and partner making almost $100k a year at a boutique shop. I’m 23 and have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Least creative and most paid… why? Because I’ve worked there the longest.”

“I summarize Malcolm Gladwell articles. I repeat buzzwords like ‘transmedia’ and ‘gamify’. And I have a proper English accent. Altogether, this nets me close to half-a-million dollars. It’s quite brilliant.”

The media confessions wouldn’t be half as dramatic.

And that is the problem. Ad people are more fun.

Tim Burrowes is the editor-in-chief of Encore and Mumbrella. 


  1. Daniel-Jacob Santhou
    4 Feb 13
    12:36 pm

  2. Fun Article :) Now to check out that blog 😉

  3. Montague Tigg
    4 Feb 13
    2:48 pm

  4. Creative confessions site are best viewed after reading

  5. Yvonne Adele
    4 Feb 13
    4:03 pm

  6. Pow! This article is ballsy – literally. I was going along for the ride there until the end Tim…. you’re giving a public smackdown to creatives suggesting they are bullshitting, ego maniacs who are sex crazed, off-their-head liars…

    Then you leave us with a backhanded dig at media agencies who you previously state you trust more by saying they’re not as fun!

    Not sure which way to look!

  7. anon_coward
    4 Feb 13
    4:27 pm

  8. Some great links here, cheers all.

  9. McLuhan, M.
    4 Feb 13
    4:31 pm

  10. Yo, this is all true – but let’s not forget that the media guy is also 1000x less likely to come up with an idea that can literally turn a nothing brand into a motza. Oh, unless you count those new digital billboard thingos, now those puppies are gonna change the world… am I right Mr media guy?
    It’s analog to the differences between artists and accountants – Leave your brand in whichever hands you feel most comfortable and get the advertising you deserve.

  11. Doomsday
    4 Feb 13
    5:05 pm

  12. The imbecilic, unsustainable and unjustified celebration of Youth in Adland results in this:

    “I am a CD and partner making almost $100k a year at a boutique shop. I’m 23 and have no idea what I’m doing.”

    Why do you think most people wish the nearest ‘creative’ (newsflash: it’s an adjective, not a noun, f*cktards) would die in a fire?

  13. Gregory Stone
    4 Feb 13
    5:06 pm

  14. Guilt as charged

  15. Nick
    4 Feb 13
    6:02 pm

  16. Well I guess if people confess annonymously, it must be true…. come on Tim.

    The article was going OK until you started quoting them. Would’ve been better if the word “claim” was in there.

    Sure, bad stuff goes on, but how much of what you quote from that blog is wishful thinking.

    I’m sure some ‘colourful’ Australian creatives will anonymously back you up here, and I’ll be branded as a jealous media man deprived of all the fun and wickedness…

  17. Anne Miles
    4 Feb 13
    6:27 pm

  18. There are some awesome, ethical people in each.

    However… from my experience in creative agencies they are a world unto themselves and in the past have seemed to be a little behind at catching up with some basic workplace standards. Sexism is one to say the least, basic office protocols like manners or appropriate leadership. The UNSW is currently doing a study on past practices of the industry in the 1980’s and putting some cred behind what Tim is observing here, and what I’ve just quietly claimed. It will be interesting to see the final report! I was interviewed and shared some of my own experiences on the receiving end of some fairly crazy behaviour!! I’m wondering if the leaders you mentioned are from that era perhaps?? (@Tim – I have the contact if you want to get more on this!)

    @Tim, pretty ballsy to go all out like this, nonetheless. You just love poking that stick down the scorpion’s nest 😉

  19. bored.of.your.nonsense.
    4 Feb 13
    10:26 pm

  20. wow…. the big moral broom of sweeping generalisations has swept through the corridors of this article!…. you think any of these symptoms are exclusive to ‘creative agencies’ and ‘media’ agencies?… to write as much is to merely publish your naiveity, to believe as much is to confirm the whoesale narcissism to be found in these industries…. boring self indulged idiots at best!….

  21. really?
    4 Feb 13
    10:42 pm

  22. Oh FFS,
    how many of those confessionals do you think are true Tim? Really. I thought you were smarter than that.

  23. nell schofield
    5 Feb 13
    10:00 am

  24. Anne Miles can you please help UNSW get something up on Mumbrella re their 80’s adland research sounds fascinating!

    As a marketer with an extensive background in other professions i’ve been amazed at the anachronistic practices of creative agencies and agree strongly with Tim that media agencies are far less wanky

  25. Penguin Alert
    5 Feb 13
    10:08 am

  26. A senior person at a very well-known media agency once Photoshopped a tearsheet to look like it had reproduced badly (they pulled out all the Magenta) to try and get out of paying for it.

    Or the traders who ask, then demand that we send them their client’s competitor’s ads, before publishing, so they can check out the pricing. And then get shrill and threaten to cut spend when we refuse.

    So, you know. Screw those guys too.

  27. Not a wordsmith
    5 Feb 13
    10:23 am

  28. An over ambitious graphic designer with great sales skills, who would sell his / her own grandmother should never be trusted.

    The above is what I have taken away from this article.

  29. Anne Miles
    5 Feb 13
    10:57 am

  30. @nell schofield and @Tim – My mistake, it was UTS that is doing the study (apologies to UTS!). I’ll contact the professor and get some details. There was a website that may be of interest at least.

  31. FozzieBear
    11 Feb 13
    5:19 pm

  32. Set up: What does this spruikage, this ad within an ad-industry blog, for the “Creative Confessional” have to do with anything?

    Punch-line: Have you seen the ads that are coming to this “Creative Confessional” blog for “start your career in ad-work and be a 23 year old hipster-tard (un)Creative Director at 100k a year in just one semester! Open Universities can con you into thinking this can happen for YOU!”

    wokka wokka WOKKAAAAA!

    also, hey, cash-for-comment is an old chestnut of a joke. even when mUmbrellistas are doing it in blog-icles about articles about blogs.