Close-Up: How is the London ad scene perceived abroad?

A viral that pokes fun at London's ad scene is now doing the rounds. You can watch it at But is it fair? Industry figures from around the world give their views on what was once regarded as the creative hub of global advertising.

- Dejan Rasic, executive creative director, CRC Australia

"In Australia, we've traditionally had massive respect for London agencies, with good reason. I certainly remember the days of receiving the latest issue of Shots and being in awe of ads such as Guinness 'surfer'. But, in recent years, Australia has started to find its own voice and we've witnessed a more confident industry. Our ideas are more original, tied to our own style and way of thinking. This could mean we no longer have that same level of envy."

- Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra, India

"Thirty years back, Indian creatives would have shaved an elephant for a chance to work in London. These days, it's more like a monkey. London still does great TV and some good print, but the truly groundbreaking stuff is happening somewhere else, isn't it? The US, for instance. Did that hurt? Oh, I'm sorry. Amsterdam. Somebody shut me up. Brazil. No - what is going on here? Japan ..."

- Olivier Altmann, executive creative director, Publicis Conseil

"For us French, the UK remains the kingdom of global creativity. If you want to work in the restaurant industry, go to France; to succeed in the automotive industry, go to Germany; to become a movie star, go to Hollywood; but if one wishes to go into advertising, better be in London.

"However, today, American agencies such as Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Droga5, TBWA\Chiat\Day and R/GA clearly take the lead when it comes to innovation.

"Nonetheless, when I see the quality of execution for major English ads (Honda, Sony, Levi's, Cadbury, Volkswagen), I'm confident that UK agencies have nothing to worry about, as long as they don't lose faith."

- Al Crawford, executive planning director, Clemenger BBDO

"There's always been a grudging respect and teeth-clenched acknowledgement that advertising might be of a higher standard in old Blighty - we're loath to concede victory to the UK in anything, even tiddlywinks. There's also general envy at the production and media budgets that dwarf ours. Hence the brain drain of talented, bronzed Aussies to the UK, despite the minging weather and generally miserable population.

"Where the mother country used to stand head and shoulders above us, there's a feeling that we're snapping at your smug colonial heels all of a sudden.

"Perhaps that's because we can see that the recession has bitten the UK much harder on the arse than Australia, making it a pretty grim place to work at the moment, with fear and conservatism, rather than innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit the dominant mood. Suddenly, the gap doesn't seem as great."

- Chris Thomas, chairman and chief executive, BBDO Asia

"London is still seen as a font of learning - a source of inspiration, great work and global talent. However, there is as much interest in Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, New York, Auckland and Tokyo.

"Although the viral comes across as bitter and cynical, it does capture a degree of introspection that exists in London. To remain the pre-eminent font of learning, London cannot be introspective but must remain innovative."

- Carlos Bayala, creative director, Madre Buenos Aires

"London is a really important and influential city and probably the key one in terms of advertising. But it has changed. It used to be UK-centric in terms of the message and audience it was chasing and the sense of humour.

"When London started to hire people from outside the English-speaking world, it changed the way it approached and expressed ad messages. The work it produces is now much easier to understand across the globe.

"London is creating a type of message that is less focused on language and more on global ideals. It gives itself a lot of criticism: it's a great way of being brilliant, but it's not reflecting what's happening - the work is amazing."

- Ian Thubron, chief executive, TBWA\Hong Kong

"Two things about the London ad scene disappoint me. First, I have come to view it as rather 'Soho-centric' and insular. In Asia, we are far more open to a diversity of talent from abroad, from different backgrounds, different talents.

"Why does the new chief executive or executive creative director in London have to be a 'London-insider'? Why not a challenger from another market?

"The second disappointment is a lack of adaptability - perceptions are that in London the big agencies still 'only do the ads' rather than the complete integrated approach."

- Rob Schwartz, executive creative director, TBWA\Chiat\Day, LA

"It used to be that the London ad market could be summarised by two words: brilliant and dominant. Brilliance described the creative. Dominance described the London presence at the shows.

"Today, you can't deny the brilliance of Fallon's Cadbury 'gorilla' and 'eyebrows'. Nor can you deny the genius of Trevor Beattie's controversial Carling beer app. But I do struggle a bit to come up with other work that's uniquely 'Londonesque'.

"Plus, there has been a rise of other cities, especially in the digital space. But I'd never underestimate London's ability to resurrect itself."

- David Mayo, president, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Asia-Pacific

"London opened the doors and the clients' eyes to what creativity is and I think they're still doing it now.

"But perceptions are changing - maybe the golden age of advertising is gone. There aren't the greats in UK advertising anymore. There are a few famous people knocking about and I don't know whether they will be great.

"While London continues to be the epicentre, a lot of clients have gone global - so agencies are being challenged to create work that has to work globally.

"London has to spend more and dig deeper to do what it's good at. I think they are probably a bit jealous of Asia because we get a bit more creative freedom."

- Brian Elliott, chief executive and founder, Amsterdam Worldwide

"London is the home of some outstanding agencies. Tough competitors that we watch carefully - as well as some of the biggest, most self-serving hype machines.

"I would say that the choice of a London agency is less of a given than it was a few years ago.

"With the exception of some players in the digital space, we see fewer really new challenger brands in the agency scene in London. Maybe a few break-away shops led by top talent, but none who seem to be challenging the status quo to the same extent of a decade ago."

- You can read more views and see the viral at