I believe agencies and clients should complement one another. There
are many who are capable of helping you create great work, but you (the
client) have to find one you’re comfortable working with.
If you are a newly appointed brand manager, fresh from a six-year
placement at the corporate treasury office, don’t go off and choose a
creative hot-house, it will only end in tears.
Equally, if you run your own focus groups every other fortnight and have
just finished the fourth volume of your thesis on brand strategy, you
and an agency that prides itself on planning will tread on each other’s
So what better way to choose an agency than by spending a quiet evening
watching showreels - actually there probably isn’t a worse way, but here
Advertising is complicated for the average marketer, because unlike
agency employees, we’re generalists, not advertising experts. So it’s as
much about judging the people as it is the work, and we all need short
My favourite is by looking at the glasses they wear, as ever since
persuading Burt Reynolds to update his eyewear, I am convinced I can
work out everything I need to know about someone’s personality by a
quick glance at the face furniture.
1 First tape out of the box was St Luke’s and a very small modern pair
of spex completely supported the very modern approach which dominated
the reel. The way it works is undoubtedly its usp and for the
fed-up-with-traditional-account-suits brand manager, I think its
approach would give much needed refreshment to a tried brand with a
tired marketing approach.
However, it could also be risky, as nicely illustrated by the highs and
lows of Ikea (throw out the chintz and sack the office boy
It could reignite a passionate love of marketing, but it could also
rekindle relationships with recruitment consultants.
2 Next up, Leo Burnett and, oh dear, we do need an eyewear update. Too
big, too round, too American, rather like the reel. Scored very highly
on the number of times ’brand’ was mentioned and therefore seemed to be
targeting the big fmcgs who put brand equity all over their annual
Leo Burnett seemed to be the sort of people who would use words such as
’integration’ and ’consistency’ at the presentation of the new creative
to the main board - very reassuring. And the company’s track record
backs this up with the McDonald’s campaign, a truly stunning example of
bulldozing in a great campaign - well done, chaps. I certainly would not
have minded having you around in my GM card days.
3 The Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe reel started with a eulogy to the
’advertising idea’. Being Lowe Howard-Spink-trained (as in
potty-trained), my ears pricked up but I quickly lost the plot. The
concept of the advertising idea is pretty difficult to explain at the
best of times and Rainey Kelly failed in my view.
I got completely lost in the Beamish explanation but then I am a mere
lager drinker and, while the ’changing times’ proposition is clever, it
is in danger of falling into the trap of slapping the endline everywhere
regardless of whether the advertising message actually supports it.
And the spex? High-tech, very clever, rimless. By the way, I thought the
Virgin flattery was beautifully done and if any agencies I have ever
worked with would like a bit of extra work ...
4 FCA! I know nothing about, but its reel left a strong impression.
Straight in with an absolute cracker for Fisherman’s Friends which I
assume has run at cinemas nationwide, and if not, why not? A good
old-fashioned advertising idea with indisputable product support.
From there on in it was downhill and the impression left was that unless
you’re a card-carrying new lad, we’re not really interested in you. I
think it is great that agencies use the reel to get across their
character so long as they are aware of the impact with marketers.
The eyewear was radical, the approach casual to the point of mocking
and, unless I had a brand where everything else had failed, I’d stick to
a safer bet.
5 All was going well until I ran into the Bartle Bogle Hegarty reel.
My spex and stereotypes method was working perfectly but I am afraid it
fell apart at the final hurdle. With one of the Bs in BBH wearing chief
executive silver aviator glasses and the other in preppy-style rounds, I
thought we had another Leo Burnett. Not at all. The arrogance was
awesome (’We like brands with product deficiencies, a bit of a
challenge’) and their approach very clear - product central to the
advertising idea and long-term brand values at the core of the
Surely it is ridiculous that an agency can claim that one of its brands
(Boddingtons) owns England’s third-largest city. But I’m afraid it’s
true. This reel is in a class of its own. It was a pleasure to see the
ads from Audi and Levi’s again, and no, I wouldn’t be so insolent as to
invite them to a speculative pitch, but I would like to update those