CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Are charity ads a meaningful test of creative acumen?

Two years in any job is long enough, so, for one week, Stefano Hatfield has swapped Perspective for a Greek island. Not without trepidation, I embark on the one column in Campaign where, I am assured, you do not have to watch your back quite as closely as elsewhere.

Two years in any job is long enough, so, for one week, Stefano Hatfield

has swapped Perspective for a Greek island. Not without trepidation, I

embark on the one column in Campaign where, I am assured, you do not

have to watch your back quite as closely as elsewhere.



Fortunately, the week’s hot topic is obvious. Did Saatchi and Saatchi

deserve to win Agency of the Year at Cannes? Yes, on paper, because it

won the most awards. It took home 13 lions for its print and poster

work. The London agency won four of the six golds with work for Anti-

Slavery International, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Joint

Israel Appeal. As for films, there were two bronzes - one for London’s

Wild at Heart flower shop, another for a CRE spot, both small-scale

films.



Not surprisingly, Charlotte Street is ecstatic - recognition from an

international panel of judges, evidence of the group’s commitment to

creative excellence etc.



However, there are reasons for believing that the award means rather

more to Charlotte Street than to anybody else, the foremost reason being

the preponderance of charity ads for which Saatchis - remember the

classic ‘is there anybody out there?’ for the Samaritans? - has long

been famous. The truth is that charity ads tend to be universally

understandable, thus standing a better chance of success than their more

restricted commercial counterparts.



Strip away the charity work, the cynics say, and what are we left with?

Work for Sony from Argentina, work for Kodak from America, work for

Greenpeace from Italy (yes, charity again), and, from London, print work

for Stanley Tools, HarperCollins and the Metropolitan Police. Sparkling

stuff alright, and a fine confirmation of the London agency’s new

generation of creative talent, but hardly a testament to uniform

creative quality across Saatchis’ agency network.



And yet few would argue against Saatchis deserving some recognition for

its chutzpah over the past 18 months. And the Cannes award

incontrovertibly proves one unchanging aspect of Charlotte Street’s

uniqueness, which lies in preventing its run-of-the-mill work from

corrupting the accounts for which excellence is possible.



Sexist as it might sound, and with apologies to Adam Crozier, I like to

think of Saatchis continued spirit in classic gender terms. When the

agency’s macho charisma was ripped out, it was replaced by a feminine

resilience that is more about caring for what you’ve got than charging

into new territories, an ethos that has become essential in this current

ice age of big account moves. Witness Charlotte Street’s new business

from existing clients such as Procter and Gamble, Toyota and Carlsberg-

Tetley.



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