Close-Up: Creatives can thrive on campaign inheritance

Taking on another agency's well-established work does not need to be as daunting and restrictive as it may, at first, appear.

In January this year, Saatchi & Saatchi released its first work for Cadbury Creme Egg using the existing "Here today, goo tomorrow" line and the suicidal eggs idea created by Publicis. Meanwhile, last week, Fallon unveiled its first Orange Gold Spot, starring Emilio Estevez, since it won the account from Mother.

Both ads are very similar to their predecessors, and raise the question: Is it possible to inherit another agency's creative idea and make it your own?

It's not a new phenomenon. HSBC moved from Lowe to JWT in 2004 and kept its "The world's local bank" line (which it still uses). But with consolidation and global alignments on the rise, it could become a more regular occurence.

Campaign asked four creative directors, who have inherited campaign ideas, about the challenges of making the work their own.

PERSIL - 'Dirt is good'

Mick Mahoney senior creative director on Persil, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

"There's a good chance when you inherit a campaign idea that the client has bought into the strategy, but not yet seen creative work that brought it to life in quite the way that they had imagined. Equally, the client may have a well-established campaign idea in need of fresh invigoration.

"Being the new agency and finding the client in this situation, the opportunity exists to raise the creative bar and find a new, more compelling creative expression. With the client's support. And that's a great brief.

"Coming at an existing strategy with fresh creative eyes is also helpful because it allows for greater objectivity and a pushing of boundaries to new extremes.

"Sometimes, with the best will in the world, the originators of an idea are often the ones who find it hardest to imagine it in any other form.

"No two creatives ever really see anything the same way. But, that said, creatives spend the majority of their careers writing ads for campaigns they haven't created themselves.

"But when they're on stage collecting awards, you try telling them that the whole thing wasn't their idea in the first place."

CREME EGG - 'Here today, goo tomorrow'

Kate Stanners joint executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi

"Agencies are all about creating brand-spanking new ideas, new strategy and new campaigns. We are driven by new business, which nearly always requires radical new thinking - from the business objectives through to creative ideas. In this fast-moving world, a long-established campaign is a thing of beauty. Something to be nurtured, cared for and protected. We have 'Carlsberg don't do ...' The campaign is understood so well now that we can have real fun with it, write stuff that can pop up anywhere. New teams work on it all the time. It's how we keep it fresh.

"When you inherit a campaign, the only difference is that there is less agency knowledge and you approach it more from a consumer perspective, because until now that is what you have been.

"However, if the campaign you inherit is good, and the work to date has been brilliant, then it is a scary challenge. It's that tricky 'second album' syndrome. But it gives you something to aim for. Although, often a campaign idea doesn't hit its stride until it has had a few iterations. Which means you get to work on it when it's hitting its stride, when you don't have to spell out the strategy and when client and consumers are more comfortable with the concept. How many times do we write a great campaign, only to be told that this would be great in year two or three?

"Creatives want to make great big bloody leaps and where better to do this than on an established campaign? They want to make it their own. Excellent, the campaign will have new life breathed into it, it will stay fresh and unexpected."

HSBC - 'The world's local bank'

Axel Chaldecott global creative director, HSBC

"The odds are, as a creative, that you are bound to work on a campaign that already has an endline - whether that campaign is from another creative team within the agency or a new piece of business where the client has asked the new agency to retain the idea. At the end of the day, it comes down to how good that idea is and what you do with it.

"When I was part of a creative team, my partner, Steve Henry, and I were asked to reinvigorate the 'I bet he drinks Carling Black Label' idea at WCRS, which meant keeping not only the endline, but also the jingle. I think we improved the campaign.

"I can imagine some creative teams being quite grateful at not having to start completely from scratch. They can enjoy building on the initial hard work that has been done to make a campaign memorable.

"The same goes with inheriting HSBC's idea when I started as their global creative director. It is a great endline. Imagine inheriting that, it doesn't make it difficult to make great work.

"The challenge was to evolve the meaning of HSBC's endline, moving the brand on from being experts on local culture to a more personal approach, which led to the current campaign you may have seen as posters in airports and in-flight commercials.

"Inheriting an idea is no doubt harder for a new agency trying to make its own mark. I wonder what initially went through Wieden & Kennedy's heads when Honda told them that they wanted to retain their 'power of dreams' campaign idea. Previous to the account moving, the idea didn't stand for much. To their credit, they then brought a new lease of life to the line with great work."

ORANGE - Gold Spot

Tony McTear senior creative director, Fallon

"An idea that had the ability to cut through in the analogue world now needs to get broader and deeper. As we all know, you can't get away with creating just a TV or print vehicle these days. The best ideas need to elicit participation.

"Yes, they still need to be able to make you laugh or gaze in amazement, but they also need to make you browse and sometimes get involved.

"This was exactly the case with the Gold Spot for Orange. Mother created a great TV/cinema vehicle, and they should be congratulated for that. We have added to the work that has gone before by moving the Orange Film Board on. Now Orange Film Studios are making films that shouldn't be made, and this allows us and Poke to think about online trailers to launch these ridiculous films, as well as tutorials on how to make them. Later in the year, there are plans to allow the public to suggest other films that should never be made and full-length films are being discussed.

"Here at Fallon, we think the question shouldn't be 'Is it difficult to take on another agency's idea?' but rather: 'Shouldn't it be imperative that we move all our ideas forward to suit the digital world we live in?' To us it doesn't matter where an idea originated. What does matter is making the idea work in a new context."