Campaign Craft: Column: UK creative process must be handled with care

Having returned to London recently after seven years in the US, it was interesting to view London life and UK commercials with a (reasonably) fresh eye. I have come to the conclusion that, in my absence, the UK industry has done some of the best - and worst - ads in the world.

Having returned to London recently after seven years in the US, it

was interesting to view London life and UK commercials with a

(reasonably) fresh eye. I have come to the conclusion that, in my

absence, the UK industry has done some of the best - and worst - ads in

the world.



Before you all start moaning: ’Why doesn’t he go back to Los Angeles if

he doesn’t like it?’, let’s start with the good bits. My overwhelming

memory of London before 1989 was of black recession and manic

competitiveness.



Things have changed utterly on that front. In my last few months in Los

Angeles, news was coming in all the time of how the UK was going through

a renaissance, with all the expats telling tales of ’amazing eateries’,

incredible summers and even smiling faces.



And they were right. The buzz in London is electric and creative morale

is high, particularly among young creatives, who are being supported

financially in everything from films and television to music and

advertising.



But while there is plenty of innovative stuff going on, some commercials

I’ve viewed are so thought-provoking they don’t seem to make any sense

at all. They’re usually the ones tinted in the same shade of ’antique’

brown (or perhaps I’ve been in the sun too long ...).



We can all think of at least three spots that are too long, too obscure

and too graphically loaded. And even more puzzling is the fact that many

seem to be for larger clients in high-spending sectors such as cars and

booze. It is almost as if, in an attempt to be part of London’s new

’scene’, marketing directors are buying work that lacks cohesion.



Now admittedly, I’m coming from the land where commercials have to be

crystal clear for consumers who can barely find the on/off switch, but

story-telling can be done creatively. A lot of ’innovative’ ads here

just wouldn’t get past a US client because they lack clear brand

message.



There has to be a happy medium, of course, and part of the reason I’m

glad to be back in dear old Blighty again is the creative freedom one

undoubtedly has.



Clients agonise over cuts to such a degree that in the end they often

don’t make any sense at all. And the last person they want is the

director bleating in the background about the integrity of the film,

etc.



But the UK’s industry shouldn’t force the process too far the other

way.



After all, no-one wants to fall victim to American ’safeguards’ against

creative excesses.



Topics