The cost of working crisis

Stu Outhwaite-Noel, CCO & Founder at Creature and White Crow, explains why we are people first and work in advertising second.

We first opened our doors to Creature just over eleven years ago and it was about eleven years ago that Dan first described payday as the ‘the worst day of the month because for everyone else, it’s still the best’.

Because good God the responsibility you feel is real, and intense: responsibility for the many mortgages and rent payments, food bills and beer budgets that everyone who has ever worked for us has represented. It’s been at least a decade since payday brought that tickle of fear but that responsibility that christ-on-a-bike-how-do-we-make-sure-they’re-all-ok responsibility never leaves you.

And nor should it, because that automated responsibility flinch is what you come to rely on when responding to everything from bereavement to Brexit results, global conflict to the cost of living crisis. If it affects them, it affects you and as a result everything that you do to try and combat it.

So in difficult times like these it’s not just about sticky plaster pay rises, but your total response to it all. Ensuring your workplace is quite literally warm and welcoming, your social budgets unaffected, your People people empowered, the lunchtime breaks un-bookable, your one-to-ones cemented into your diary, your ‘life first’ principles loudly lived out from the top and right through the business. Of course the additional money you can put in peoples pockets at the end of each month is important, hell, essential even, but the ‘giving a shit’ foundation stones need to be there for the other thirty days.

But who am I, Mr Creative Director, to be banging on about this? Shouldn’t I stick to the words and pictures? Focus on the creative accolades and awards. This is a canvas and word count for CEOs, MDs and HRs. But alas no. When it comes to the bad eggs of our industry - the ones allowing living to come at the cost of working - creatively led agencies are too often the main culprits. With creative leaders blinkered by their creative ambitions and blind to the misery they are, ironically, creating.

So to add an outspoken creative voice to the deafening but essential debate…

There is nothing wrong in wanting to create stand-out work, but everything wrong in trampling over people’s lives to get there. Dragging placements out for months, letting young people rot in Zoom boxes, putting reviews over pick-up times, letting toxic clients get away with it, dragging work into the weekends and nights. The ‘glamorous’ dog eat dog , blood sweat and tears, first in last out ‘pulling an all-nighter’ days are gone, so put your narcissism back in its Betamax box and bury it.

Stu Outhwaite-Noel, CCO & Founder at Creature and White Crow

Nowadays nothing should matter more than your people. Lives are not on the line, so stop putting people on it. It’s not just going to take well-meaning initiatives and well-armed HR departments to support people through the likes of the cost of living crisis, but a fundamental rethink and rebalance of looking after what we create and looking after who creates it.

We have a shiny new ‘Laws of the Jungle’ waiting to be framed for our shiny new warm and welcoming office. Twelve rules everyone who works at Creature must live by. Sitting firmly at No.1 ‘We’re people first, and work in advertising second’ followed closely by 2. ‘We look after ourselves and we look after each other’. May those responsibilities continue for many years to come.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 07 December 2023