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
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
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
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
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
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