Does Advertising Really For “Yuccies” Today?

Nowadays, thanks to the media, “yuccie” or “slashie” become an idealized model of cultural where labor and leisure blend in perfect harmony (Duffy, 2015). I think this is a positive signal of social development. When culture, technology, and economy are all constantly progressing and the world becomes more civilized, people can decide not to work for the living but for a higher goal. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, young people today are more willing to work for self-actualization. As a person who used to be a fan of this “getting paid to do what you love” philosophy, I took an internship in an advertising agency one year ago.

It’s hard to say this experience was good or bad, but indeed it taught me a lot. The lucky thing was they paid me, and I could report directly to an ACD which meant I got a very senior mentor. He was a typical traditional ad man, who cared so much about generating an idea from a really unique insight (I also worked for another ACD later, who was more digital-minded, care about creating a buzz more than the logic and sense of a campaign). Every time when I tell him my idea, he would ask: “What’s the insight? Is it really distinctive?” So that was the best part of a beginner in this industry, to work and think in a very classic, academic way.

However, even though this internship was not free labor and I indeed learned something, I still wouldn’t say it was perfectly worthwhile. Since the money was limited, while the work didn’t fulfill my imagination of creative industry. The strongest impression it left to me was that advertising, especially big agencies are work for business but not innovation, which disappointed me a lot. In order to maintain its image and scale, they only cooperate with bad clients with a high budget. For those four months, most of our project were selling properties, with some typical empty rhetoric. They routinely finished things in clients expectation. But from my perspective, the duty of an agency is not ingratiating its client. You are supposed to innovate, to do something really surprising. As Duffy (2015) indicated, aspiring creators toil in exchange for autonomy and  excitement. So that’s why thousands of young people come to this industry and care less about their salary, just like me. We thought advertising agencies were factories of imagination and dream, but the reality is always opposite and cruel. So I gave up the opportunity to become a formal employee of that agency and continued my study.

I am not blaming the whole industry because I can only represent a group of my friends and former colleagues who work in the city I came from. Maybe in some other cities with a bigger market, things are totally different. What I am trying to say is, the inadequate reward is not the only serious problem in this industry. The failure of self-actualization also troubles some “yuccies” a lot. The truth is like I mentioned in the previous post, many people quit advertising. In this age of information and technology, they believe starting their own business or joining a technology company are more creative and innovative. So my question is, does advertising still the first choice for  “yuccies” today? At least to me, those global agencies are losing their attraction. They are also losing ego and territory, like Idris Mootee (2008) indicated: Nokia hired W+K to set the creative agenda and JWT, the 196-office 100+ year-old agency to only adapt Wieden’s work locally. So seeking to reach the “yet-untapped yuccie market” (Duffy, 2015) is not only the business of commercial brands but also a need of traditional big agencies. To win their position back, they must win young creatives’ hearts back first.

Here is an interesting work from a famous creative hot shop BBH:


To end this, I want to introduce one of my favorite design studio called Nendo, who creates interesting stuff with both unique insight and lovely idea. Even though they are not doing advertising, I really admire their concept: Giving people a small “!” moment. Isn’t it match the deepest part of your heart?


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