CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/CREATIVE CONTRACTS - Does giving creative teams control over their contracts work, Camilla Palmer asks

The departure of one of TBWA/London's key teams, Ed Morris and James Sinclair, last week was a surprise, coming just 18 months after their appointment. To most observers, the creatively charged TBWA was the right home for the highly decorated creatives.

The two returned to TBWA from BMP DDB, having worked at the agency when it was TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, and were reported to have the kind of contract creatives salivate over in their wildest dreams. Granted final sign-off on all their work by the chairman and creative director, Trevor Beattie, Sinclair and Morris were also free to roam the agency's accounts, working on briefs of their choice.

But given the mystery surrounding their departure - neither they nor TBWA would comment on Campaign's news story last week - it seems that such flexible working conditions proved unworkable.

The Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper executive creative director, Mark Wnek, says: "Creatives, no matter how brilliant, should never be allowed to work solely on accounts they want to. It gives off bad vibes to the rest of the department and reduces the creative potential of the pieces they've vetoed."

He points out that the best creatives are able to work wonders across the whole spectrum of brands, no matter how grungy. "Who knows where the best opportunities lie?" he asks, citing the case of Araldite, the glue brand which bought a campaign in the 80s showing the product's strength by gluing a car to a poster site. "Not a sexy brand - but it changed the way we thought about using media, and sold lots of product," Wnek says.

The thorny issue of employment contracts is taken seriously at the law firm Lewis Silkin. The joint head of employment, Michael Burd, claims that although it is unusual for agencies to tailor contracts to suit individual staff, it is done in certain situations.

"The most common example is when an agency starts a London office and needs to hire staff to set it up. Obviously, they're looking for big hitters, but because there's a certain risk involved, the employee is often offered full control over their contract," he says.

Non-conventional contracts also tend to occur with the hiring of senior management at established agencies. Drawing up specific contracts for creatives is acknowledged to be more difficult. "Agencies are buying a somewhat more cerebral skill when they hire creative talent," Burd says. "It may sound obvious, but it's important to set out the ground rules - and how they are regulated - before a person starts."

Burd won't comment specifically on Morris and Sinclair, but others have speculated on the nature of their re-employment by TBWA last year. One senior creative was unaware of any special contract for the duo, but added that their past relationship with the agency - and Beattie - may well have meant that an element of mutual trust and respect influenced any formal agreement made.

Wnek is less sanguine. "Real creative ability comes from working across the board, and I think the best creatives reflect that by doing good work on anything they're given," he says.


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