Editor’s note: Please excuse the horrendous misuse of the Queen’s
English in the following article. Charles Webre, the new executive
creative partner of WCJ/London, is, after all, an American, coming over
from WCJ/New York. Need we say more?
Upon hearing my accent, the first question everyone wants to ask me is:
what the hell does an American know about creativity and the business
here in the UK? First, let me say that I’m not an American, I’m a
That aside, let me tell you about the challenges our industry in the US
faces, and I believe you’ll see some similarities.
As I see it, we direct agencies are quickly driving ourselves out of
business and are soon to have our billings eaten up by advertising
It’s not that they’re out to get us - they’re simply following obvious
trends in the market. And, personally, I am refusing to stand aside and
Recently, the ad agencies have managed to parlay their business from
producing advertising into being brand gurus for their clients,
consulting not with the director of advertising but the chief executive
on the opportunities that lie ahead for the brand. Big ideas that could
mean huge opportunities for the client. All fairly admirable work.
Meanwhile, my colleagues are off accepting a direct marketing brief from
some client that has to unload a couple of widgets they have sitting in
the warehouse. Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed about where we’re
Call me an idealistic creative but, given many clients’ orientations at
the moment, I think we have a pretty good opportunity open to us.
Fundamentally, this is the opportunity to change how business is done
and how money is made. Given our heritage in data and behaviour, we
could be leveraging customer knowledge to drive big business for the
brand. This is the perfect complement to advertising’s broadcast nature.
And I don’t know one chief executive who could turn down this magic
The big challenge is one of creativity and ideas. For years we’ve spent
all our time trying to beat the control. Tiny changes that add up to a
minute blip in a client’s business. We pride ourselves on our response
rates, not on our ability to shepherd our client’s brand and affect its
operations at strategic levels. And now that it’s finally our turn to
shine, we’ve sapped the creativity out of our workforce by forcing them
to think on the most tedious levels.
There’s no doubt advertising agencies are looking enviously at the
opportunity we below-the-line guys have. Just look at the winners at the
recent DMA awards - advertising agencies are trying to gain
As an industry, I’m concerned for us. For the real opportunity exists
for the one who is clever with ideas. As I come here to the UK,
hopefully I can find others, colleagues and competitors, who are also
willing to rise to this challenge.