Media owners offer a new type of creative firepower
A view from Danny Rogers

Media owners offer a new type of creative firepower

As the nights draw in here, does working in sunny California suddenly take on a certain appeal? Well, this may now be an option for some lucky creatives. This week, it emerged that Apple intends to increase the size of its advertising and marketing department in Cupertino from a current 300 up to maybe 600.

Apparently, after years of Steve Jobs preferring to see Apple as a "products company" rather than a marketing one, the new regime is upping the size of its in-house resource, scouring the agency world for the best creative directors and heads of innovation.

And, of course, Apple is not alone in this quest. There has been a long-term trend for media owners in the UK, including the new tech-media powerhouses, to hoover up top creatives. It is no coincidence that Channel 4’s 4Creative team – run by former Fallon creative partners – has swept the awards schemes over the past year. Meanwhile, Google Creative Lab, led by Steve Vranakis of VCCP fame, is much lauded.

Many ECDs would still prefer the culture – and variety of work – offered by the broad-based advertising agency

The driving force behind this gradual trend to staff up on in-house creatives is because, in a fast-developing and complex media economy, these media owners are desperate to win the imagination of the creative community. It is the same reason that Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! – and even Amazon – now invest so much in wooing the delegates at Cannes. The Guardian is also about to announce a major initiative in this space.

The talent grab for top creatives is overseen by executives right at the top of these media giants. The chief executives of ITV, which established ITV Creative a few years ago, and Channel 4 are themselves former ad agency executives – Adam Crozier (Saatchi & Saatchi) and David Abraham (St Luke’s) respectively – while The Guardian’s chief commercial officer is David Pemsel (also ex-St Luke’s).

The positive upshot has been gradually improving creative output from these media brands. But some see a threat to Britain’s advertising agencies, which could, they argue, face a talent drain.

I would dispute this. Instead, these in-house roles offer an enticing career progression for accomplished agency creatives and encourage the throughput of fresh talent. In any case, these jobs are unlikely to appeal to every executive creative director, many of whom would still prefer the culture – and variety of work – offered by the broad-based advertising agency.

And the good news is that these brands are tangibly improving their relationship with their agency counterparts. On this point, Apple is also bolstering the power of its iAd network, which will increasingly compete with the talent at UK legacy media owners.