The bitterness and cynicism of the untalented

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James Cross is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Meanwhile, a start-up creative shop in Manchester. Previously, he was Creative Director of BBC Creative, where together with partner Tim Jones (also a founder of Meanwhile), won a BAFTA for the corporation’s Tokyo Olympics campaign, along with over 200 creative and effectiveness awards in their 5-year stint. Previous to this, James has worked at several McCann Worldgroup offices and independent agencies and has even written two screenplays, including 'Bat Shit' with Romesh Ranganathan.

Biggest fuck up? 

I once moved to an agency without realising what they actually did. Or perhaps I was in denial. I was young, excitable, and attracted by the host of blue-chip clients they boasted on their website. I thought I’d struck gold, but when I got there, my first job was to think of different ways to write ‘buy one get one free.’ Sounds easy, right? I called my previous employers back a week later and begged to come home – which I did eventually do a few months later – lesson learned. Look (properly) before you leap, and don’t ignore the red flags!


The bitterness and cynicism of the untalented and, frankly, washed-up. I’m talking about advertising people here, but more pointedly, creatives. The social-media-dwelling types who think things were better in their “day”, the ones with zero self-awareness and who offer only disparaging critique of the latest creative work, the guy (almost always a guy) who thinks creative awards are a waste of time so will tell you daily via one of their tedious LinkedIn updates; the ones who believe they are still owed a living; and ironically can’t believe how quiet they’ve been since they went freelance/got fired. They can get in the bin. Along with their screenplay.

Useful advice

“If you’ve got to eat shit, don’t chew.” 

Gary Setchell

Gary Setchell, a former CD at McCann, told us that just before he quit the industry and became a primary school teacher.

We still live by it and preach it today to our juniors especially. To us, it means that if whatever you’re doing is ungratifying, just plain awful or any type of turd-polishing, get through it and move on as quickly as possible. It doesn’t just go for creatives, I think it’s great life advice, actually. Divorces, moving house, small talk with neighbours, reverse parking, any form of DIY, swallow it whole, mate.


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