“The advertising world has become so boring,” says Laura Jordan Bambach. “There’s so much crap that adds to the world’s crap out there, and everyone is drowning under terrible imagery, terrible copywriting, terrible stuff just shoved in your face.” Speaking at DOITCONF in Albania, Bambach explains how she approaches advertising, and her own creative philosophy.
Bambach first came to prominence with her work on cyber-feminist hyper-zine GeekGirl. She joined in 1994 (“an exciting time for the internet”) and went on to become its Creative Director. Having studied Digital Media, her expertise was in the convergence of technology and art; “I like soldering, and coding, and building things that touch people emotionally.” She has brought this passion to each of her roles since, including President at D&AD and now Creative Partner at the Mrs President integrated creative agency.
“When I think about what got me into this industry, it’s that feeling of wanting to be an explorer,” she says, “to try new things and to go into new areas, and to come up with new concepts and to change people’s points of view.” Bambach is on a mission to inject some of this adventurous spirit back into the industry, to save advertising from itself, from the inertia and ennui that so often stand in the way of genuine change. This ennui, though, is just a symptom, caused by three things that she admits to hating:
1. Laziness. “Bad creative is mostly just because people are lazy,” she says. “Laziness is a destructive force that makes us do terrible things, like stereotype people because we can’t be bothered going out and understanding what people are really all about.”
2. Saying no before trying. “There’s always a way to make something,” she says, adding; “for the right amount of money.” Being unwilling to even consider a new way of doing things has led to “this horrible, slow, treacly, painful place that our industry has got to, which means we’re not working to our best potential.”
3. Mediocrity. It is so easy for consumers to ignore mediocre work, says Bambach, because there is so much of it. “It is better to do something outrageously bad or completely stuff a project up, than to do something that is just middle of the road.” Bambach shows the audience the tattoos which adorn each of her wrists; ‘order’ and ‘chaos’. These tattoos are her own personal talismans against mediocrity. “It’s about finding balance through polar opposites,” she says, “and challenging myself, doing things that scare me all the time.”
Chasing new challenges and embracing work with a purpose is at the heart of Mrs President. Bambach encourages all staff at the agency to explore their own pursuits outside of work: “It’s much better to have someone unable to come in today because they’re tinkering on a project than having a room full of people who are just there to do the job they’re paid to do.”
In addition to inspiring a workforce at Mrs President, Bambach is the founder of SheSays, a volunteer-run global network which aims to change the gender ratio in advertising at every level. And as if that weren’t enough, she also found time to launch the Cannt Festival, an annual celebration for the technologists, designers and young teams who never get to experience the Cannes Lions. After all, she believes it is just as much their work being honoured at the Palais as any CCO: “The world has changed so much that it is no longer the creative directors who are totally responsible for the creative work; maybe they never were.”
Ultimately, she says, everything she does is tied into her personal goal to be “the kind of person who creates new things and has time to think about them,” and to “drive change, and keep our universe interesting.”