Editorial: Client/creative empathy will raise ad standards

Anyone who has sat on an awards jury will know how some entries can polarise opinion. Work that knocks one person out is another's pile of poop. Indeed, it's not unknown for Campaign's writers to be split on whether a particular ad should be Pick or Turkey of the Week.

Pity the poor client, then. With no more than subjective opinions and gut feelings to guide him, he approves a campaign that has industry watchers asking if a semi-retarded chimpanzee signed it off. Of course, as Steve Harrison points out on page 22, agencies and clients must take the rap together for the appearance of bad work and need to build an atmosphere of mutual trust, respect and understanding if more dogs are not to be let out of the kennel.

Fine aspirations, but hard to achieve. When JWT's Nick Bell took over the D&AD presidency for 2004, he declared it his mission to raise standards by kicking away the crutches too many clients rely on, draw them in from the sidelines and get them more involved with creatives. Such evidence that exists suggests Bell made some headway - the D&AD judges who last year were forced to admit their disappointment at the overall standard of awards entries were heartened by the amount of good work submitted this time around. The reason? Clearly, the improving economic environment has encouraged clients to be less risk-averse and to buy more adventurous executions.

No-one should get carried away by this renaissance in creativity, though. Depressed consumer confidence and a looming oil crisis have led advertisers to cut ad budgets for the first time in two years, according to the latest Bellwether Report. Previous experience shows it will not take long for a lot of clients to pick up their crutches again.

If an economic winter returns, clients and agencies will have to help each other survive it. For agencies, that means a recognition of the fact that clients are under enormous pressure to produce results and that advertising may be just one of the complex commercial issues they must confront. For clients, it means understanding that agencies cannot perform at their best if the marketing director changes every 18 months. Harrison is right: it really is time for both sides to view the world through each other's eyes.