Jeremy Lee: Can 4Creative boost its output with hiring of Bovill and Allison?

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 18 October 2012 08:00AM

To those tired of the industry's obsession with youth, the description of Chris Bovill and John Allison, who have just joined 4Creative as its joint heads, as "wunderkinds" by their new boss will have provided some cheer.

Jeremy Lee: Can 4Creative boost its output with hiring of Bovill and Allison?

With their decade-long advertising career, a clutch of creative awards and a reel that includes "cake" and "mean green" for Skoda (as well as their scruffy beards), the pair are not the baby-faced male ingenues that Dan Brooke, Channel 4's marketing chief, initially describes.

In the 11 years since Channel 4 set up 4Creative, a creative agency that would function as a supposedly distinct commercial proposition, I've never really understood what it was there for other than producing the channel's ads.

In truth, Channel 4 also struggled to define it - at its birth, it seemed a bit like a vanity project of Brooke, who was then its director of strategy, rather than a rival to the mainstream ad agencies that would compete for other non-Channel 4 ad briefs as originally billed.

Aside from creating some Channel 4 sponsorship idents of varying quality (you may remember the lamentable "flies" work for BT Cellnet's sponsorship of an early series of Big Brother), what publicity it did generate was for internal Channel 4 projects rather than external brands.

And while traditional agencies were frequently invited to pitch against 4Creative for these internal briefs (for example, the launch of More4), it soon became obvious that the cards were stacked against them.

That's not to say there has not been the odd highlight in its early years - "Indian summer" to promote, erm, Channel 4's coverage of the cricket was one - but very little else for anyone to get too worried about. In short, it seemed to be born out of expediency rather than a grand strategic vision.

And so on it plodded for the next ten years or so, with the occasional moment of brilliance - Brett Foraker's rebrand of Channel 4 in 2005 and "meet the superhumans" for the Paralympics by his successor, Tom Tagholm, among them. But, for every one of these hits, there were scores of run-of-the-mill programme promotions.

So why would a capable creative pair want to give up the depth and variety of clients that an agency job offered, in favour of trying to drum up custom for yet another series of The Million Pound Drop or Come Dine With Me?

And given that the record of creatives going in-house is not generally a particularly happy or productive one - Specsavers notwithstanding - you might think that Bovill and Allison are taking a considerable risk giving up their jobs at Fallon. Unless, of course, they will steer Channel 4 to "new creative lands" as Brooke promises and are wiser heads than he suggests.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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