PERSPECTIVE: Abolish the gravy train to help boost client confidence

Our feature this week, ’I don’t care what directors earn’, goes some way to dampening down the hysterical recrimination that has been flying around since we ran that story in the 17 January issue. The issue isn’t, nor should it be, what Paul Weiland or other top directors earn.

Our feature this week, ’I don’t care what directors earn’, goes

some way to dampening down the hysterical recrimination that has been

flying around since we ran that story in the 17 January issue. The issue

isn’t, nor should it be, what Paul Weiland or other top directors

earn.



Weiland, Tony Kaye and co are at the peak of their profession. Like

anyone else at the top - from Alan Shearer to Kate Moss, Richard Rogers

to Martin Amis - they can charge a premium. It would be hypocritical of

premium-priced agencies such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Leagas Delaney, or

even Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury to argue otherwise, wouldn’t it?



Although many in the production business believe that some creative

directors are merely jealous of Weiland’s earnings, I don’t really

accept that. Let’s be honest, the average creative director is hardly

underpaid. Instead, I honestly believe agencies, or more accurately

their clients, think the production business is guilty of ignoring the

’gravy train’.



’Gravy train’ is the way commercials production is regarded by any

potential supplier from celebrity agents to make-up artists. The gravy

train causes my hairdresser - or anyone else who finds out my job and

doesn’t understand the zero influence I have in these matters - to

implore: ’Stef, you know all these admen, can’t you get me into ads? My

mate makes pounds 600 a day for an hour’s work. It’s brilliant. We want

to give up work and go freelance for adverts.’ There may be some

hyperbole in that, but we all know the sentiment is ubiquitous: ’Let’s

get into ads - it’s easy money.’ It’s even expressed in public when

celebrities (who have less to lose than hairdressers or carpenters)

state blithely that they’re doing a new low-cal chocolate mousse spot in

order to finance a West-end Chekhov, or a new kitchen extension. John

Lloyd said famously that when he switched from directing Blackadder to

directing commercials, he thought the budgets in adland were crazy.

After a couple of years of plenty, he began to think the BBC was

crazy.



Yes, what happens to discounts is an issue, even if most are ’only’ a

few hundred pounds. Yes, we do need absolute transparency and yes, as

Mischa Alexander explains on page 23, agencies are frequently to blame

for the spiralling cost of a commercial through a combination of naivety

and poor systems. However, it is Soho’s acceptance that an average 30

seconds costs pounds 250,000, and an awareness of this gravy train that

fosters the seeds of doubt in clients’ minds that they are being ripped

off. This then pervades the client-agency relationship and in turn the

agency-production house relationship. This is where the roots of the

current row lie. Will anyone ever have the balls to do something about

it?



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