CAMPAIGN DIRECT: VIEWPOINT - Opportunities abound but agencies need to seize and act on them

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?

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

Texan.



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

agencies.



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

let them.



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

ending up.



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

formula.



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

below-the-line credentials.



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.



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