PERSPECTIVE: Creativity is still the heart and soul of the advertising industry

For advertising's doom-mongers (of which there seem to be an increasing number - and not all of them over-paid, under-motivated chief execs), there is more news to warm the cockles this week.

The AAR has monitored the number of major creative pitches in the first half of this year, and it's down by more than a quarter. Alain de Pouzilhac talks about "a more negative market than forecast, rendered even more difficult by the lack of visibility in Havas' first-half results released this week (revenues down 3.4 per cent, by the way, see page 7). Leo Burnett is to be investigated over so-called "billing irregularities for its work on the US Army's advertising account, promoting further loss of confidence in advertising and media stocks. Trinity Mirror has announced an 8 per cent slump in advertising revenue.

It's a depressing list, without even the virtue of surprise. But before redundancy starts to look like an interesting option, read the piece on William Eccleshare's return to advertising on page 17.

Ignore, for the moment, that the price Eccleshare has paid for this rebirth is the bloody and political task of marrying Young & Rubicam and Wunderman into a single management structure. It seems he can't wait to get back to adland, and his reasons should serve as a reminder to everyone in the business why - recession or no - this is still very much a great place to be.

Eccleshare says he missed the energy and personality of advertising, the buzz of the creative process, and the varied types of people and problems that are unique to this business.

"Don't under-estimate the creative side, he says simply, after two years in the desert of "serious-minded management consultancy.

Advertising has long had a wary eye on the advancement of the management consultant on to its turf. In response, most agencies have worked hard to enhance their understanding of their clients' wider business issues. It's true, too, that the downturn has focused minds not only on how to make clients' budgets work harder but also on how to run advertising businesses more efficiently. Such are the benefits of recession.

But the danger is that at the same time what is so special about advertising gets downplayed. As Eccleshare has come to acknowledge, advertising must never lose sight of its role as the colourful, invigorating and innovative marketing partner.

That's what acts as flypaper for the brightest talent and what marks the business out in clients' hearts from the consultants claiming to offer a viable alternative.

With all the gloomy news and concern over the medium-term health of the industry, it has never been more important to underline advertising's uniquely rich seam of vibrancy and creativity. Recessionary realities must be acknowledged, but not at the expense of the industry's creative buzz.

- Caroline Marshall is away.

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