D&AD: Close-up - Opinion - Fostering good client and creative relations

Creativity is achieved with greater harmony, D&AD's leaders claim.

"I don't like any of the ads ... they are focused on awards, not on selling more product to more people at higher prices."

So said Chris White, the recently appointed managing director of Nestle Rowntree UK, in a controversial interview with Campaign earlier this year.

White was criticising the past advertising of Nestle Rowntree brands and complaining of what he perceived was a focus on creativity for creativity's sake, rather than on selling products at the best prices.

White's comments made headlines for weeks and underlined many of the issues advertising agencies face when working with clients to generate brilliantly creative, effective campaigns.

Great creative work is not simply the product of a great creative team or a great creative agency. It requires a brave client who knows how to foster and facilitate the best creative thinking from all of their communications agencies. And the client has to believe in the power of great creativity for the campaign to be effective.

So what can creatives do to encourage their clients to understand the creative process better?

Here Nick Bell and Mi-chael Hockney, the president and chief executive of the D&AD respectively, debate how to get the most out of the relationship between clients and creatives.


You only have to look at the average television commercial break to know why we need greater understanding between those who produce creativity and those who buy it. Too much communication is so concerned with saying all the right things, it neglects to engage its audience sufficiently to influence it. As a creative, you can either moan about it or do something about it. So when I was elected as the D&AD president, I decided to focus on getting the clients and creatives to start collaborating more effectively.

This is not a flash-in-the-pan idea. Nor is the problem one that can be easily solved overnight. My ambition is to put the spotlight on the issue so it becomes a more important and successful part of D&AD's work.

I say "more" successful because D&AD already explores the relationship between creative excellence and business effectiveness through its Creativity Works programme.

In each of the past three years, D&AD has prepared case studies on brands that have experienced considerable commercial success as a direct result of outstanding creativity. A book with all these studies is sent to 13,000 people, including leading business figures and recipients of the D&AD Annual. This year's studies include John Smith's, Mulberry, Innocent, the NSPCC and Audi and, as both the clients and the creatives share their perspectives, there are valuable hints whether you are headed for a career on the business or creative side. Clients and creatives are welcome to attend the Creativity Works seminar.

And this year, we are taking our commitment to a higher level with the introduction of the first ever D&AD Congress.

As the executive creative director at J. Walter Thompson, I find many aspects of my job are really rewarding. But the thrill of a young creative team walking into my office with an outstanding idea that could transform a client's business and the careers of that team, does take some beating. I will look forward to seeing you at Congress.

Nick Bell, the D&AD president, is the executive creative director at JWT


The starting point for both client and creative is to acknowledge that developing outstanding creativity in pursuit of business goals is a team effort - a two-way street. This goes far beyond the client ultimately paying the bill. It is recognition of the need for the creative solution to emerge from the collective minds, experience and imagination of the two different professions - creative and client.

Don't forget that most clients already do what we'd call "creative things" - they will conceive, develop and launch new products and services. The very process of briefing is a creative act in itself. The problem is that there is often a gap between the marketing brief and a creative brief, which needs to be better bridged in order for clients to communicate effectively with their design or advertising agencies.

Both in agencies and when working alongside clients, I've always found the creative process inspirational and really enlightening. The D&AD Workout, which we are holding at D&AD Congress, is the first specifically aimed at providing clients with a real insight into the creative process and the briefing process in agency. The aim is to provide tools and techniques to think creatively and to communicate effectively with the creatives they work with.

I've always found that the early days of a relationship were really important - a decent induction for the design group or agency into the client operation so that they understand its values and aspirations and ditto the client into the agency. I've found it really helpful to agree upfront who will make up the core team on both sides - and then stick to it. Through this, the agency or design company can make sure that the creative brief falls directly out of the client's business objectives.

Agreeing these expectations upfront on what the creative output is expected to achieve (and when) may seem obvious but this is not always the case.

What needs to be achieved - in terms of awareness, market penetration, sales uplift, price justification and brand building - all needs to be considered. Balancing short-term and long-term objectives also needs to be considered, as well as being candid about what a budget can achieve.

Part of our work at D&AD is to help remove barriers that lead to negative pre-conceptions between clients and creatives. I think that for both parties spending time looking at work which is largely admired can bring a greater understanding of what makes great creativity.

I'd define great creativity as being unexpected, having relevance, saying the same things in a new way and saying new things about a product or service you thought everybody already knew.

Michael Hockney is D&AD's chief executive, a former agency chief and management consultant.


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