To cut stress and boost creative output, Andy Bryant thinks that
agencies must go for deeds not words, and make sure the client is
involved in the whole process
A straw poll among clients suggests a shared frustration when they are
excluded from the creative process (Campaign, 26 April). Top agency
managers agree that stress levels in the industry have risen too high
(Campaign, 12 April).
And a female correspondent condemns the ‘bloody hours - the time-
wasting, effort-consuming, pointlessly long hours’ (Campaign, 1 March).
Join the dots between these seemingly unconnected observations and a
chronic problem will be revealed. Agencies and their clients spend too
much time doing the wrong things. We devote huge amounts of energy to
work that, ultimately, contributes little to the end product that
clients really want. Advertising.
Here’s an illustration from my private catalogue of painful experiences.
A beer campaign currently on air features a famous comedian. It’s funny,
nicely crafted and no doubt working hard. It’s for a brand we lost to a
fellow roster agency and, dammit, I’m jealous - but not because they
beat us. Ce n’est pas la guerre.
No, what fills me with envy, perverse though it may seem, is that they
very nearly ran out of time. Circumstances conspired to leave the client
without a campaign roughly a month before an airdate he was absolutely
Client and agency teams alike had no option but to throw themselves into
the task of creating commercials rather than drawing up brand equity
grids, demand cluster analyses or mood boards.
And this after our own team had frittered away some nine months in
interminable client meetings, debating such issues as whether a target
drinker could be both hedonistic and discerning, wheher the anticipation
of an ‘unveiling pint’ (sic) was best described as an emotional or
visceral response, or whether ‘ale values’ were captured in every frame
of an animatic.
It’s said that clients have got better at advertising. I suggest that
they have got better at advertising methodologies and we have only
ourselves to blame.
I sometimes wonder if today’s ‘IPA effectiveness culture’, for all the
good it has done in adding professional integrity to our business, has
unwittingly created a monster - a parallel universe in which concepts
like ‘semantic decoding’, ‘branded memorability’ and ‘lines of best fit’
have achieved an abstract significance all of their own.
This has come about because most agencies still cling doggedly to
outmoded working practices that compromise their ability to meet client
desire for direct paths to the right advertising.
Our clients have re-engineered the way they work: multidisciplinary
project teams; just-in-time manufacturing; fast-track new product
development. By contrast, the vast majority of agencies have hidden
under the duvet.
There are exceptions, most notably the agency formerly known as Chiat
Day, and Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, both of which have blazed the
trail of collaborative creative development.
At our place we’ve introduced, with great success, commonsense processes
such as multidisciplinary advertising workshops, brainstorming adcepts
with clients and tissue meetings to show early ideas in a very rough
So, to reduce stress and pointlessly long hours, try getting clients
around a table with creative people and encourage an honest exchange of
thoughts, ideas and prejudices. If only we had done that from the outset
with the ‘unveiling ale’.
Agencies need to invite their clients into the creative department,
literally and metaphorically. Our sister agency down under, Campaign
Palace, has the corporate philosophy: ‘Do great ads and have a laugh.’
It really should be that simple.