CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Strong creative is no longer enough for today’s shops

So, the dust is finally settling on the usual post-D&AD awards rumpus. Who do you side with? Are the winning ads elitist and irrelevant or shining and inspiring examples of excellence? And do you think clients really care?

So, the dust is finally settling on the usual post-D&AD awards

rumpus. Who do you side with? Are the winning ads elitist and irrelevant

or shining and inspiring examples of excellence? And do you think

clients really care?



Perhaps they should, but you just know that most of them will dismiss

all this banter as the exclusive concern of adland’s cappuccino

chasers.



Some will smile wryly as they do so, others will display irritation.

We’ll ignore the lot of them and have the debate again this time next

year. In the end, though, there may be no-one left to listen.



Advertising agencies are facing a hugely challenging future - and

whether they thrive or wither will depend not one iota on the type of

ads their creative awards schemes choose to decorate. This is a debate

about product.



What the industry urgently needs to address, however, is not what it

produces but how (and even whether) it produces it. In other words, the

process.



Of course, that was what Graham Hinton tried to do during his time as

the president of the IPA. Perhaps he overstated the threat from

management consultancies. Maybe there needs to be more positive

affirmation of what agencies are good at. But the point is that agencies

must change - to redefine their role in a world of fragmented audiences

and new boardroom priorities.



To this end, agencies must decide whether management consultancies -

and, more pertinently, brand consultancies like Wolff Olins and

Interbrand Newell & Sorrell - are friend or foe. On the one hand, they

are stealing the brand guardianship from under agencies’ noses. On the

other, they are working in areas that agencies have never been

interested in - like brand valuation and corporate identity - and have

proved themselves effective partners on occasion (First Direct and Go!

were created by Wolff Olins and HHCL & Partners; Orange by Wolff Olins

and WCRS).



This work hasn’t just won creative awards, it has helped redefine the

industries concerned. Who can deny that this is what all ad agencies

aspire to?



If agencies are to retain (or regain) their position as brand guardians,

they urgently need to address this. Fundamentally, they need to show

they understand that producing lovely advertising is not always the way

to build a brand. For this to be credible, they need to be structured

and renumerated in a way that allows them to recommend other solutions

and still get paid for it.



And, if they want to win back access to the boardroom, they need to

learn a new language. As one brand consultant said to me recently: ’Talk

to a chief executive about ’brand personality’ and ’spontaneous

awareness’ and their eyes will glaze over. Talk about ’P/E ratios’ and

’asset management’ and their eyes light up.’



Of course, this couldn’t be further from D&AD. But then, that’s rather

the point.



john.owen@haynet.com.



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