Phil Hickes, Creative Head at Golley Slater, Cardiff - one of Britain’s most successful regional agencies – reveals all.

Advertising does exist outside of London. Not that you’d know it by reading Campaign. While you London dandies prance about from one private members club to the next, decrying the latest YouTube derivatives, there are hundreds of us quietly getting on with the business at hand, furiously polishing turds for our latest creatively-challenged client.

See? Life could be worse. The frustration out here is that we creative exiles share your ambitions. Like you, we want to be lauded, feted and carried shoulder high from the D&AD halls. But we’re disadvantaged before we even dust off our pads. We don’t share London agency resources, profile or clients. So we’re constantly struggling to get decent stuff through, swimming against a tide of financial and cultural constraints.

Try doing justice to your beautiful concept with a budget of 50p. See if you can hide the horror on your face when your new client proudly proclaims that their last ad was shot “by the same bloke who directs the DFS ads!” Or when your MD tells you that they’re wooing another ‘exciting new client’ in the insurance industry.

So why do we stick it? Because there are always exceptions to the rule and there are great accounts to be had if you look hard enough. It only takes one good client doesn’t it? And I’m sure you’re not all sitting down to tea with VW and Guinness every day.

Of course we could also stop boo-hooing and get back into the mix. Maybe we’re not good enough to cut it in the Premier League? Well, I don’t buy that. For starters, many Creatives out here have come direct from the Smoke. (You can spot them immediately; the hollow-cheeked, haunted-looking alcoholics.) And besides, if we start to feel a little inferior, then we only have to look at some of the toe-curlers to roll off the London production line and our confidence is restored. Cue Berocca.

I’m on thin ice here though. The regions churn out more than their fair share of excremental advertising – stand up the recent Honey Monster ad. But there are also some cracking examples of what the regions can do when conditions allow: WKD from Big Communications; the Irn Bru campaigns from Leith; the Adidas Manchester ad from McCanns; anything from Golley Slater ; ). If you sift through the shit, you’ll find plenty of golden nuggets.

The other main factor, of course, is the quality of life. The hours are better. The commute is shorter. By the time you’re exiting your plush receptions we’ve been to the gym and are settling down to watch Corrie with a glass of Tesco’s finest. We’re not losing hair and sleep because some cocky young graduate team have just moved in down the hall. Creative careers last longer (one of our AD’s is 67 and still going strong). When a creative team has a result, the rest of the department don’t start muttering darkly about ‘rip-offs.’ There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.’

And…we still get to dip our toe in the London scene and enjoy a Satsuma Bento box at all the best production houses. Just less often.

So if you’re growing weary of the backbiting and the sniping, consider a move to the regions. We’re crying out for experienced people. You won’t be having conference calls with Chris Palmer every week, but it’s far from being a creative bone-yard either. You’ll love the relaxed, relatively stress-free lifestyle. Plus you’ll still get a sniff of awards - though it’s probably best to bid ‘adieu’ to the Hotel Du Cap and say ‘bonjour’ to the Hotel Du Thistle. It all depends on your priorities. Personally, I don’t want to ever stop enjoying what I consider to be one of the best jobs in the world. I’m not sure that would be the case if I was in London. (Whatever Dr Johnson says).

P.S. Scamp, did you get my book?


Do you work outside London? Did Phil tell it like it is? Let us know.


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