Stu Turner: Let’s be better

Stu Turner: Let’s be better

By Stu Turner, Executive Creative Director, The Royals


“What a joke! Lacks any idea or craft.”
“This is absolute rubbish!”
“You actually shouldn’t call yourself a creative.”
“If you think this is good, maybe you should try another profession.”

These may sound like the comments section on Campaign Brief, but they are actually just the voices in my head almost every day.

Like so many people, I have struggled with mental health most of my adult life. And being in creative leadership, I’ve come to realise how prevalent these issues are in our industry, and particularly among creatives. I can’t tell you how many creatives I have seen in tears because of their own pain in dealing with these completely out-of-control voices in their heads and the pressure of what we do each day. We really don’t need anyone else to bash our work, attack our character, or diminish our confidence, because we are already highly skilled experts in doing that to ourselves every day.

I think one of the reasons for a lot of it (and yes, it’s a chemical issue as well) is that as creative people, we live in that scary place between order and chaos. The order of a deadline, a review, a live date, a schedule etc. And the chaos of a blank piece of paper, the possibility of never arriving at a good idea, the high chance of utter failure.

Living in this zone is unsettling and tense and we do it consistently. It’s taxing on the mind, all these fears of inadequacies and peer judgement, and the terror that our ideas might not work for the clients who are paying us for them. It’s frightening and exciting all at the same time.

If you’re reading this then you’re probably in the industry, which means you’re probably also aware of these issues in yourself, or at least in someone you have worked with. And you would know how devastating they can be.

I would like to appeal to that empathetic side of us all and ask that we hold back on these deeply hurtful comments on the work. I don’t think the comments section should ever go away as it provides an opportunity for discussion, praise, and even healthy criticism. But this anonymous insulting and disgusting behaviour is not only damaging to our industry, it’s detrimental to the people we all work with, causing even more pain for people already suffering.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that so many comments are from disgruntled, jealous or completely junior people who don’t know what it takes to make something great. And full disclosure, I’ve made some terrible comments in the past myself, so I am by no means innocent. I realised that my motive for doing so was never from a good place. I was probably jealous of the work or angry that I hadn’t made anything good in a while, or just pissed off because advertising is hard and in a weird way just needed to vent.

But we all have to stop this.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t think any of us should settle for mediocre work, and I am hellbent on trying to raise the standard wherever I can, but the reality is that with so much out of our control in this industry we often have to make compromises along the way that make the work suffer. And even before that we have mountains of obstacles to overcome just to sell something successfully. We all know that. And negative comments don’t help make any of it better.

So, when you see a piece of work on your screen or the streets, or being discussed in the trade press, remember that there’s a bunch of people behind it. Remember that those are actual human beings with feelings and ambitions and families to support, and most of them, if not all, want to make good work. They are all trying. Hold back on your hurtful criticism and just ask yourself, is it really necessary to say what you are about to type? Because it will hurt someone. Guaranteed. Know that it will. Rather just keep it to yourself, or better yet, dig deep and find something helpful to say.

I really believe that if we can get rid of this rot and spend the time supporting each other on here, rather than sledging, the work will get better. Mental health will improve. Confidence will grow. Clients will respect what we do more. And as an industry we can bring back some of the joy we’ve lost over the years. Any maybe we can just be better humans for a planet in dire need of it.

That’s my two cents. Comments welcome.