It's time for advertising to face the music in the talent war
A view from Claire Beale

It's time for advertising to face the music in the talent war

Bovill and Allison could get a job pretty much anywhere in advertising now. But they don't want a job in advertising.

Did someone at Warner Music read our feature in January, "Beautiful weirdos wanted", and decide to "stop hiring samey people. Stop making samey work"?

Or did they just run their eye down the list of most highly awarded creative teams in London and plump for the pair with two lusted-after D&AD black Pencils on their shelf?

Either way, Warner has this week poached the authors of that article, Chris Bovill and John Allison, from Channel 4, underlining a new ambition for the music label and its Firepit division to deliver richer culture-shaping content underpinned by broader, commercially creative craft skills.

A few things raise this story beyond the increasingly familiar narrative about creativity moving in-house (or, in this case, from in-house to in-house). First, there’s something here about the music industry and its resurgence. The business has been forced to embrace disruption and reinvention; it’s a few years ahead of the ad industry in staring down apocalypse and finding a new relevance. Now it’s a business back in growth (IFPI’s latest Global Music Report revealed a 6% uplift in worldwide recorded music revenues), and it’s an industry coming after marketers’ money. Yes, Bovill and Allison will work to promote Warner’s talent portfolio – Ed Sheeran, Coldplay – crafting music videos and content. And yes, let’s face it, you can see the appeal as an alternative to making digital campaigns for beans or insurance. But the pair will also be creating content that meshes Warner’s music talent with brands and their big bucks. 

There are plenty of great examples of bands and brands allying for mutual gain (Gorillaz launched its Humanz album last month with a mixed-reality-experience app backed by Deutsche Telekom). But it’s a model that hasn’t yet been successfully systematised in the record-label business model. Bringing talent like Bovill and Allison in-house looks like a smart move down this road and one likely to focus minds at rival Universal Music, which is currently dancing round handbags with its cousin Havas. 

Finally, there’s Bovill and Allison’s appetite for the Warner challenge. This pair deliver Superhuman creative results. Hotter than shit, they could get a job pretty much anywhere in advertising now. But they don’t want a job in advertising. Advertising should have a think about that. Do the world’s best commercial creatives still see ad agencies as the most exciting, rewarding, encouraging, inspiring places to work? I’m not so sure.

The battle is on for creative superstars like Bovill and Allison. This is a war for talent ad agencies simply cannot afford to lose but look less certain than ever to win.

Claire Beale is global editor-in-chief of Campaign.