CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE - FOREIGN CREATIVE DIRECTORS. Are overseas creative directors good for adland?

How will UK advertising be affected by a recent influx of creatives from abroad?

GARRY LACE, chief executive, Grey Worldwide London.

"I don't think there's the talent at the highest level in London. I think also that people from different markets with different ways of working bring a fresh approach to agency life. The world has woken up to fact that the epicentre of creativity actually isn't London.

"As an industry, we have been very poor at bringing on a fresh generation of creative directors and we have to do something about that. It's partly down to the fact that we've taken the training and development of people in the creative discipline less seriously. Account people and planners receive a lot of training, but creative people don't, and they should."

RUSSELL RAMSAY, creative director, Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

"You see the names of creative directors from overseas, but you've never heard of these people, and the press seems light on information as to what great advertising they've done.

"If they can do the job, then good luck to them, but the case has yet to be proven. But I would have thought there were a lot of equally qualified people in London.

"If you are going to hire a creative director these days, you need to know he can do it and trying to get somebody who's already a creative director to change agencies is quite hard. On that basis, you have to start looking elsewhere. These people have run agencies so it's less of a risk."

STEPHEN WOODFORD, chief executive, WCRS, president IPA.

"On the whole, I think it's a very good thing. The crop of overseas talent over here now can only make our market better. And it's good that the UK is still a magnet for these people.

"In markets such as Australia and South Africa, a lot of the work is simply international advertising re-voiced. There are fewer local advertisers spending decent budgets on big brands. So I think they are used to making the most of what opportunities they have. They seem to treat creative opportunities with a reverence you don't see in the UK.

"Also, because marketing budgets are smaller in these countries, it maybe encourages a greater level of innovation. And given market conditions here, that's what UK agencies are looking for - that innovation, that ability to work with tighter budgets and that slightly more leftfield perspective.

"It also strikes me that creative directors in other English-speaking markets are more client-savvy. They get to grips with business issues in a more grown-up fashion.

"There should be about a dozen British candidates for every directorship that becomes available. Seemingly, there's not, judging by the appointments that have been made recently. But I don't think that there is a problem with the standard of creative, I think it's the leadership skills of the UK candidates that are lacking."


"There have been a few Australians appointed recently, but there have been stages in the past when there's been a few American appointments as well. So I don't actually attach any significance to it.

"I'm more interested in the fact that agencies like Mother have a number of creatives from Argentina and other non-English speaking countries.

It's always been held that you couldn't be a useful creative person in the UK if you didn't understand the details of our culture because good advertising tends to arrive out of the idiosyncrasies of the country it is running in.

"But I suspect if you mix people from different countries in with people from this country you might get some interesting results, and that might explain some of the work that's coming out of Mother at the moment. I find that far more interesting than whether three or four creative directors in London are Australian or not."

PAUL SILBURN, deputy creative director, TBWA/London.

"Most of the creative directorships that have been available recently had been touted around London and I don't think it was a case that the people interviewed weren't right, I just think they weren't interested in these jobs.

"I don't think there's a dearth of creative talent in the UK. If, for instance, the creative directorship of Bartle Bogle Hegarty became free this week there'd be plenty of people who wanted that job - you certainly wouldn't have to go to Australia to find someone."

ANDREW CRACKNELL, former executive creative director, Bates UK.

"We need to re-assess, re-design and re-build the creative director role, and maybe appoint not one person, but two or three people, or have it half done by a planner.

"The thing that makes this job so difficult now is that, on the one hand, you have to have almost childish enthusiasm for the work of your department, and its commitment to being unreasonable, its sullenness and its procrastination.

"On the other hand, you need someone who's outwardly facing, has a grasp of business issues and who can sit down at the top table and give clients confidence that this wacky work coming out is indeed right for them. It's very difficult to find all those qualities in one person, so why not have two do it?

"So I don't want to address the issue of 'Australian and South African creative directors, good or bad?' I want to get behind that and say that it's all a symptom of a bigger malaise and that malaise is the paucity of imagination on the part of UK chief executives. They dare not get anyone local because of the potential criticism, so they go abroad. But they should really be thinking about what the job is and whether we should be designing a role and formulating a new way of approaching it."