Could marketers be more involved in the creative process?
Could marketers be more involved in the creative process?
A view from Staff

'If marketers aren't taking ownership of the creative process, they should be'

Amid the rising demands of procurement and the time pressures of the 'always on' digital culture, it can be hard for marketers to take a genuine stake in the creative process. But can they rise to the challenge and, indeed, do brands need a greater degree of involvement?

Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit


Richard Warren

Chief executive, DLKW Lowe

A good rule of thumb is the more a client has creativity embedded in their own brand, product or service, the more likely they will – and, arguably, should – take ownership of the creative process.

This is why fashion and jewellery brands, products with high design credentials, premium retail brands and cultural venues all tend to do a lot of creative in house.

Often these brands will have their own creative director, who is responsible for every expression of the brand and entrusted with meticulously ensuring that every piece of communication is ‘on brand’.

The rise in the importance of ‘owned’ channels – particularly online environments and ecosystems – and retail ‘experiences’ as high-profile expressions of a brand will, by definition, only accelerate the trend for clients owning the creative process.


Zaid Al-Zaidy

Chief executive, McCann London

During my early days at Unilever, I was taught to believe that to get the best work from your agency, marketers had to invest heavily in the creative process and create genuine partnership with their agencies.

I had to fight to attract (not demand) the best talent from the likes of Lowe and HHCL to work on my briefs.

Today, sitting agency-side, it feels as though clients are forced to expect more for less, the pressures of short-term and price-led risks draining creativity from the process.

  The world has changed, the need for partnership hasn’t and, when I look at our long-standing relationships with L’Oréal and MasterCard, it is clear that we wouldn’t have been able to give these brands the meaningful role in people’s lives that we have without it. A partnership doesn’t only nurture creative excellence, it also nourishes the bottom line.

  Marketers should reclaim the creative process, invest in partnership again and counter the supplier-led culture of today.


Amanda Newman

Marketing director, M&S Bank

If marketers aren’t already taking ownership of the creative process, then they absolutely should be.

The creative process should be driven by the marketing team and developed as part of the overall marketing strategy, using genuine customer insight and an in-depth knowledge of the customer’s needs and preferences.

The creative process shouldn’t be thought of independently, or in isolation, of the marketing strategy, it should be a collaborative and holistic approach that’s driven – and, indeed, owned – by the central marketing team.

Only by taking this holistic approach can you deliver fully integrated marketing communications that really live up to the customer’s expectations.


Mark Palmer

Group marketing director, Pret A Manger

I spent the first decade of my career working for big corporates and enduring the traditional client-agency model. I rarely got to meet a creative. Instead, I had to navigate a painfully inefficient circus of suits and planners. Procurement would occasionally turn up and help us all feel 10% more miserable.

Next, during my time at Green & Black’s, I worked with a super-talented creative director called Beri Cheetham. He worked for an agency, but our process was fluid. We’d meet every Tuesday for at least an hour, when we would thrash out and develop the best work.

Now I’ve gone the whole hog and every day I sit next to Pret’s brilliant in-house creative director, James Cannell. Our creative process involves arguing a lot and really worrying about the work until we’re both completely happy. I highly recommend it.


Tim Hunt

Marketing director, Guardian News and Media

But that doesn’t mean bringing more ‘process’ to the creative process. Clients and agencies are the creative process.

Great work starts with a great (client) brief. A great brief means brains (good insights and being clear about what your business objectives are), heart (big ambition and wanting to do something different) and courage (wanting to make it happen).

The reality is that creativity doesn’t work without trust; clients must be self-confident enough to know what they want and to create the space for their agency partners to make it happen.

Beyond that, it also helps to remember what Frank Zappa once said: "A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it isn’t open."

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