Google led me to the original speech at Gifts of Speech. Do read the full speech! It's brilliant!
The speech triggered a train of thoughts. So, here's the excerpt from the speech interspersed with some of my thoughts!
In China art and the novel have always been widely separated. There, literature as an art was the exclusive property of the scholars, an art they made and made for each other according to their own rules, and they found no place in it for the novel!Lets play a substitution game! In the above statement, replace 'China' by 'India', 'Art' by the 'Creative department', 'novel' by 'non-creatives/planning' and 'scholars' by 'creatives' and a few other minor changes!
So the statment now reads - "In India the creative department and the non-creatives have always been widely separated. Here, advertising as an art is the exclusive property of the creatives, an art they make and make for each other according to their own rules, and they find no place in it for the non-creatives!"
And they held a powerful place, those Chinese scholars. Philosophy and religion and letters and literature, by arbitrary classical rules, they possessed them all, for they alone possessed the means of learning, since they alone knew how to read and write.And today the creative department holds a powerful place. The prima donnas, their self-indulgence and big egos! Archaic craft rules. And D&AD(of which India hasn't won a single award) and Cannes-n-Abby-focussed-existence, obsessed with narrow definitions of creativity, turf-protection, politics and silly awards.
They were powerful enough to be feared even by emperors, so that emperors devised a way of keeping them enslaved by their own learning, and made the official examinations the only means to political advancement, those incredibly difficult examinations which ate up a man's whole life and thought in preparing for them, and kept him too busy with memorizing and copying the dead and classical past to see the present and its wrongs.
In that past the scholars found their rules of art. But the novel was not there, and they did not see it being created before their eyes, for the people created the novel, and what living people were doing did not interest those who thought of literature as an art. If scholars ignored the people, however, the people, in turn, laughed at the scholars.
For they alone possess the Macs,have access to the code to photo-shop,illustrators and corel draw and the right to 'be creative'!
And the creative class is powerful enough to be feared even by the new emperors(the CEO and the Board!) But many of the creatives today are enslaved by their own creativity. The D&AD, Cannes and Clios - the incredibly difficult exams which eat up their whole life and thoughts preparing for them, and keep them busy with doing arcane stuff to be appreciated by a non-appreciative-western-audience.
Copying the styles of the West and too dead to hear the sounds of their own back-alley and hinter-land! If creatives ignore the consumer and reality, the new consumer and ground reality, in turn, ignores the tradional creative! Because the youth and the new consumers are plugged more into Bollywood than advertising, laughter shows than clever body-copy and gaming( albeit on a very niche base) rather than self-indulgent many-a-time non-relevant creative!
In China the scholar was a class. Here he was. A pursed mouth, a nose at once snub and pointed, a high pedantic voice, always announcing rules that do not matter to anyone but himself, a boundless self-conceit, a complete scorn not only of the common people but of all other scholars, a figure in long shabby robes, moving with a swaying haughty walk, when he moved at all.The Chinese scholar and the typical average Indian creative( run-of-th-mill, 90% of the creative class) share some common traits - supercilliousness, ignorance of reality, boundless self-conceit, a complete scorn not just of account management but of all other inhabitants of the agency including the planner( although grudingly they do make small concessions and friendly gestures) and a haughty sway as a shield to any new idea, radical thought or counter-intuitive suggestion!
He was not to be seen except at literary gatherings, for most of the time he spent reading dead literature and trying to write more like it. He hated anything fresh or original, for he could not catalogue it into any of the styles he knew.
If he could not catalogue it, he was sure it was not great, and he was confident that only he was right. If he said, "Here is art", he was convinced it was not to be found anywhere else, for what he did not recognize did not exist. And as he could never catalogue the novel into what he called literature, so for him it did not exist as literature.
Spotted in huge gatherings at self-congratulatory award shows. Most of his time is spent in studying 'Archives' and trying to copy some of it without revealing the source. Hating any new thought, leave alone copy/story which comes from the non-creatives!
Not recognising anything which is not in 30 seconds or 100cc. Everything else must follow into the deceit of the 360 - expedient extensions of the primary idea with total disregard for the TG, the client's problems/ needs, cultural sensitivity or any logic!
But, happily for the Chinese novel, it was not considered by the scholars as literature. Happily, too, for the novelist! Man and book, they were free from the criticisms of those scholars and their requirements of art.Replace the 'novel' now by 'non-advertising'. Look at the way in which the internet, search engines, blogs, social networking sites, youtube.com, PR, WOM, design, retail experience, in-film advertising, Bollywood is growing! They are growing out of the wishes and desires of the common people, nurtured by the hearty sun-shine, popular approval and a little less controlled by the cold and frosty winds of the 'creative class'. At one point advertsing led the creative cause. Today, barring a few odd players/ people, I feel the industry is lagging!
Their techniques of expression and their talk of literary significances and all that discussion of what is and is not art, as if art were an absolute and not the changing thing it is, fluctuating even within decades!
The Chinese novel was free. It grew as it liked out of its own soil, the common people, nurtured by that heartiest of sunshine, popular approval, and untouched by the cold and frosty winds of the scholar's art.
No wonder, when in the morning I read Martin Sorrell say at the HSBC summit that 50% of all WPP earnings come from non-advertising and that shortly 2/3rds of it will come from non-advertsing...I knew the novel was thriving...
And yes, if agencies don't gear for the new environment where there is a 'democracy of creativity' we are doomed earlier that we think!