Adland is full of oxygen thieves and it’s time to change for the better

DDB Sydney's Chiquita King considers how to breathe life back into an industry full of oxygen thieves.

I actually read the fine print when I signed up for a career in advertising. The one thing I remember was that if I was going to succeed, I had to have an attitude of possibility, and therefore positivity. When ideas are born, they need oxygen to survive. And I keep asking myself why the industry is full of oxygen thieves.

We have a responsibility to see the possibility. To look for it, discover it, invent it if you have to, but it is fairly essential and permeates everything in our business.

It’s an attitude that fuels ideas and gives them a trajectory. Possibility encourages curiosity and conversation. It also builds trust. And without trust we might sell some work, but we won’t have our clients buy the work we want to make. There is a difference.

But more than ideas, possibility sets a trajectory for people too. And let’s face it, we are a people business before we are an ideas business.

I’ve always loved people that move everyone around them forward. No matter the challenge or obstacle, there is always a sense of momentum because there is energy. I’ll follow people like that to the end of the earth. And quite frankly, it makes my days away from my family worthwhile.

I’ve never understood why people in advertising are so critical of each other and the work. I’m often embarrassed to read industry press because we tear each other down.

As an industry, we should always lean into the possibility of our ideas changing the world for the better – particularly now, in a world where what we do has evolved from mass marketing to mass mattering, and where creativity can solve actual real-world problems not just shift products off shelves.

We want to recruit the next generation of brilliant minds who are looking for more than a career. They want to work with people who lead with conviction and teach them what they weren’t able to learn at uni. People who go about their careers with a sense of purpose and navigate the politics by being authentic and true to themselves.

I think we should work harder at changing the behaviour that suggests making other people feel small somehow makes us more important. Which, of course, it doesn’t.

When we recruit, we should recruit talent that subscribes to the unwritten terms and conditions. Talent with the right DNA make up. It will do well for our people, our ideas and our profits. 

Cynicism is just a springboard for doubt and that will never bode well for nurturing people or ideas.

If you think something can be better, make it better. And do so in a manner that garners respect and inspires.

If you can’t do that, then maybe you should hold your tongue or try something else. People re-invent themselves all the time.

Although, possibility will serve you well no matter what you sign up for, just quietly.

Chiquita King is DDB Sydney’s managing partner


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