Media Perspective: Why clients are to blame for the UK not being cool anymore

Say what you like about Cannes but, at its best, it still serves as a barometer for where our industry and our product is heading.

Most notably, the Titanium shortlist, packed as it is with the coolest work from the coolest agencies and representing the new creative dividend that is on offer to brands that put participation at the heart of their work.

But the obvious question is that if this is the sort of work we all admire from the sort of agencies we all admire, how come the UK is so poorly represented? Having offered the industry creative leadership for so many years, is our inability to compete with the Droga5s, Crispins, Goodbys and Nitros of this world proof that the UK is to be a foot-note in the future of creative communications?

OK, so Droga5's "the great schlep" emerged from a unique set of historical circumstances and perhaps it's unfair to flagellate ourselves for failing to deliver campaigns of this nature day in, day out. However, work such as Tourism Queensland's "the best job in the world" and Burger King's "Whopper sacrifice" came from the kind of briefs that grace our desks on a weekly basis.

So where should we lay the blame for our inability to capitalise on the new creative dividend? Who exactly, in the parlance of our times, doesn't get it?

Well, it sure ain't the great British consumer who is getting in the way. Educated by Google, trained by eBay and connected by Facebook, our consumers are quite clearly ready to play and in substantial numbers.

And it is genuinely no longer the agency world that is dragging its collective feet. Sure, the orthodox ad agencies may have been a little slow on the uptake, but once we got with the programme, our ambitions, attitudes and capability to deliver the campaigns of the future changed radically.

No, without a doubt, the people struggling hardest to "get it" are within the client community. It is their silos, their pre-testing regimes, their moribund metrics, their accepted wisdoms, their fear of risk, their politics and their obsession with short-form TV advertising that is the most significant brake on the greatest future-facing work coming out of the UK. Sure, there are some inspirational marketers inside our greatest brand owners, but, invariably, they sit at the helm of organisations that struggle desperately to brief and buy campaigns that have even one foot in the 21st century.

For UK advertising to lead the world again, we must now ask our client community whether it is prepared to step out of its collective comfort zone and become once more the patrons of revolutionary marketing.

- Richard Huntington is the director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi.

- Russell Davies is away.

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