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Creativity in a Time of Plague and Pestilence


A smartass journalist once asked Ringo Starr “what would you have been if you hadn’t been a Beatle?” Ringo didn’t hesitate “I’d have been a drummer” was his crushing rejoinder.

I like that story because it demonstrates that Ringo considered himself first and foremost a drummer, then a Beatle.

They say it takes a crisis to test a system, and the Biblical proportions of the current crisis is certainly testing the various systems of late capitalism, and finding many of them creaky and unfit for purpose.

But the crisis also asks questions of us as individuals: “What would you have been if you hadn’t been a copywriter/art director/designer/producer/editor/content creator… (insert current job title here)?”

I hope your answer is “I’d have been a creative”.

Many years ago, I went into business to do advertising. I had little or no interest in business, I just wanted a job where I could be creative and write things. Someone suggested copywriting. And that was it – a job title for my creativity.

I am pretty sure that many of our creaky systems will not survive the post CV-19 recovery. Old answers and ways of doing things will not cut it anymore. What we do, and how we do it will change more over the next five years than over the last fifty.

Good. For way too long procurement, spurious metrics and a fetishism with technology has cowed creativity.

I am acutely aware that right now a lot of creatives are sitting at home experiencing the visceral, yet rational fear of wondering if they have a job to go back to when they sound the all-clear klaxon. I don’t claim to have any predictive insights into the future, having failed to spot that a microbe would throw the global economy back to plague times.

But in discussing creativity and the future, Abraham Maslow (beloved of marketers) asserted that professional skills would become obsolete, as the challenges of the future would require a new kind of person: “a person who is able to improvise with confidence and courage in unexpected situations”.

In other words, someone who was first and foremost creative, then a (insert current job title here).

So, be more Ringo. Be more creative.


Insights by Pearse McCaughey
Former Group Creative Director of Cawley Nea\TBWA, past president of ICAD and a current member of ICAD’s Executive board.