Close-Up: From creative turkeys to award-winning work

How do clients change from creative Luddites into podium-hoggers? Campaign asked the agencies that have pulled it off.

HONDA - Ben Walker creative director, Wieden & Kennedy

I don't think we changed Honda. It always knew the brand had a story to tell. It just needed to find the right people to tell it.

Wieden & Kennedy won the business by presenting it with a book that made sense of "the power of dreams". The book was full of warm, funny and interesting stories about Honda, its beliefs, its founder and what makes it tick on a day-to-day basis. Luckily for us, "the power of dreams" isn't just an advertising slogan. It signifies the way Honda goes about its business. Once we learned that, all we had to do was tell people about it. The first film set a good marker. "OK factory" was a brand film that made clear exactly what Honda's beliefs are in a wonderfully creative way. After that, I suppose the only difficulty was making sure that each time we were flogging a specific car, we were also making a bigger brand statement.

The perception of the brand was the big problem, not the cars themselves. In this country, Honda felt a little bit safe or old. Our job was to make Honda's engineering feel warm and human. We certainly tried to talk to a younger audience. Honda pushed us hard and played an active role in getting us the right results. It has always been supportive with time and budget issues. But I wouldn't say we changed it in that way. I'm sure it just needed the right ad support.

COMPARETHEMARKET.COM - Steve Vranakis, creative director, VCCP

The insurance comparison market is notoriously crowded, competitive and undifferentiated. It's a very low-interest category. So when comparethemarket.com asked us to repitch for its advertising account it was a tough brief.

We knew we had to do something that would create real standout; something that would generate true fame and lovability. Strategic diligence revealed that cracking Google was the answer - if we could make the key search term "market" famous ("compare" was too generic to other comparison sites) then we could drive people to the site far more effectively.

So then along came the meerkat ... When the initial Aleksandr script was presented internally, people seemed to be equally divided as to whether it was genius or sheer buffoonery. Probably it was a bit of both. What was undoubtedly true was that the approach was original, very funny and got everyone in the agency talking.

Credit where credit's due. It's one thing for an agency to develop a creative idea like this. It is totally another thing for a client to buy it. Imagine the pitch: "Hello, we would like you to fund an advertising campaign that actively promotes another comparison website, not your own. The main character of the advertising campaign is a meerkat called Aleksandr who hates your car insurance website and tells everyone how angry your website makes him. Oh, and by the way, we'd also like you to pay us to build that other website - a website where you can compare thousands of meerkats ...?"

Hmmm. This is what is what, I believe, is commonly referred to as a "big ask". To comparethemarket.com's eternal credit, although it may well have thought that VCCP were slightly crazy, it listened, awarded VCCP the account and work began on comparethemeerkat.com's first ever advertising campaign.

PHILIPS - Laura Jones, client managing director, DDB

When we started working with Philips in 2003, it faced a tough challenge. Marketing communications was a poor relation in a company of brilliant engineers - someone was needed to define the way forward and champion marketing. How to start?

Step forward Andrea Ragnetti.

Ragnetti completed a review of the brand's communications: a unifying brand promise was crafted and campaign development was put into the hands of a few experts.

There were fewer, bigger projects and creative work was to focus on benefits, not just product features.

We restructured. There were two key milestones: first, we decided we would always reach out to whichever DDB office offered us the best talent; and second, Neil Dawson joined the team as our global creative director.

Here's what our client, Gary Raucher, Philips' head of integrated communications, has to say about getting the internal ways of working right: "I was told by my chief executive that there could be no more excuses. In the past, the marcoms team could say it had wanted to do A, the business unit had wanted to do B, the countries had wanted to do C, so we ended up doing D as a compromise. I contacted our agencies and extended the message to include them.

"We had an important meeting where - in true partnership - we agreed that either we were going to make a significant change or, in 12 months, we would all be working elsewhere. As a result, the agencies implemented the changes that were needed to deliver great work."

But we all agree, this is no time to rest on any laurels: there is still plenty to learn from the "carousel" Cannes Grand Prix experience.

T-MOBILE - Paul Silburn, creative partner, Saatchi & Saatchi

How do you change a client into a big creative award-winning powerhouse? We don't think it's possible unless they really want to be one.

From past experience, we've also found that there normally needs to be one person driving the change from the client side (at Saatchi & Saatchi we're lucky to have a few of those: Hans-Christian Schwingen at T-Mobile, Phil Rumbol at Cadbury, Mariano Dima at Visa).

The catalyst for "life's for sharing" was Hans-Christian. He was new to T-Mobile and wanted to create a more brand-led, pan-European, campaign.

Were there any client issues? Well he barely knew us, so why on earth should he trust us? So we threw everyone behind the brief and treated it like a pitch. It was led by Robert Senior and backed up by the European and UK T-Mobile account teams, who had to manage the hopes and expectations of the many interested parties.

The other major issue for us was timing. We didn't get sign off for "dance" until mid-December and we had an air date of 17 January. A total of 23 working days to pull it off.

But in the end, we think it was this ridiculously tight schedule that bonded the client and agency teams together and forced us all to trust each other to get things done, and done right.

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