Close-Up: Live Issue - Should creatives present to clients?

Is it beneficial for clients to have creatives on hand when ideas are showcased, Claire Billings asks.

The days when client contact was the exclusive territory of account handlers and the generation of ideas was strictly the realm of creatives are over. Today, a marketing director is as likely to get involved in the creative process as writers and art directors are to stand up and present their work.

Mother was one of the first agencies in the UK to put creatives in front of clients when it launched with no account handlers.

Damon Collins, Mother's outgoing creative director, says: "I can't think of a time when it is not beneficial to at least have a creative person in the room. Creatives present and explain their reasoning behind an idea, and the client gets the facts from the people who created it."

Online agencies are generally built around this approach, since digital creatives are only too aware of how easily the performance of their ideas can be measured against a client's business objectives.

Andy Sandoz, a creative partner at the digital agency Work Club, says: "Creatives need to understand how to sell their ideas, and how to understand their impact. A good creative is much more than a firestarter. They can close the deal and understand why an idea is effective as well as why it's good."

A similar thought process is also prevalent in the US, where it is practically expected of creatives to present. Mike Sutherland, a senior writer at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, who previously worked at Publicis New York with his partner Antony Nelson, says: "When we worked in New York, presenting to clients was offered as an option, but it is becoming more expected, certainly of senior teams."

However, this approach is not without risk, and several factors have to be taken into account when deciding to put creatives in front of clients. First, they are unlikely to have received any relevant training at college, and second, they are not likely to have been hired on the basis of their presentation skills.

Simon Veksner, a creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, is the author of a popular advertising-based blog site.

In a recent online argument, he railed against creatives being allowed to present their work. Problems arise, he argues, when clients feel unable to criticise an idea in front of those who created it.

He also argues that client meetings take up time that could be spent working on campaigns, and that account people are not only better at presenting the ideas, but also at fielding criticism.

He says: "Creatives are appointed on their ability to communicate with mass audiences, not on a one-to-one level."

Peter Buchanan, the deputy chief executive of COI, adds: "Creatives shouldn't be on the frontline all the time, there's a risk they'll become demotivated or lose objectivity."

But Mark Roalfe, the chairman at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, counters: "The modern creative is expected to deal with clients a lot more than they did ten years ago. Get over it. That's life. But if they hate it, well, that's why God created account people."

And while there are benefits to creatives forging closer relationships with clients, it has to be the right person for the job.

Moray MacLennan, the M&C Saatchi European chairman, says: "Unfortunately, a renaissance man who can be everything - a brilliant planner, strategist, presenter and creative - is rare, but where they do exist, why not use them?"

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CLIENT - Peter Buchanan, deputy chief executive, COI

"Agencies should use creative people tactically as appropriate, but don't have them in meetings all of the time with clients.

"The creative team should always be available in case the client feels that only they will be able to express the idea and get the point across.

"Some creative people find presenting to clients a motivating experience, but there are those who don't, and that needs to be factored into the decision as well."

DIGITAL CREATIVE - Andy Sandoz, creative partner, Work Club

"The articulation of ideas comes best from the person who had the idea, rather than having it paraphrased into the language of someone else.

"It helps you fireproof your idea. If you understand your client's point of view, you'll understand when your ideas are right or wrong.

"For most people, it's important they have the comprehension that meeting clients brings. We're not working in a vacuum, we're trying to solve a business problem, or create an effective piece of culture change in communications.

"If I had a creative who said he never wants to meet clients, I'd be fine with that. If he was churning out great stuff, I wouldn't care."

CREATIVE - Mark Roalfe, chairman, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

"The passion behind why you did the work is often what clients go to agencies for in the first place, and there is no-one better at relaying that passion than those who created it.

"Clients allow for the fact that creatives aren't great presenters, because it also means they're not great bullshitters, and they're more honest about it.

"I've always found that the better you understand a client, the more accurate you can be at solving their problems."

AGENCY CHIEF - Moray MacLennan, European chairman, M&C Saatchi

"You don't want your creative department sat in meetings with clients all day, but when it comes to presenting the work, the lines are starting to blur and disciplines are converging.

"Creative people are capable of taking a brief face to face, and they are also capable of talking to clients about the work.

"There are always exceptions to any rule, but it is the way the business is developing and what the business requires, so I think creatives should present work to clients, and I think they'll do it more and more in the future."