OPINION: Get away from the drawing board if you want great ads

To cut stress and boost creative output, Andy Bryant thinks that agencies must go for deeds not words, and make sure the client is involved in the whole process

To cut stress and boost creative output, Andy Bryant thinks that

agencies must go for deeds not words, and make sure the client is

involved in the whole process

A straw poll among clients suggests a shared frustration when they are

excluded from the creative process (Campaign, 26 April). Top agency

managers agree that stress levels in the industry have risen too high

(Campaign, 12 April).

And a female correspondent condemns the ‘bloody hours - the time-

wasting, effort-consuming, pointlessly long hours’ (Campaign, 1 March).

Join the dots between these seemingly unconnected observations and a

chronic problem will be revealed. Agencies and their clients spend too

much time doing the wrong things. We devote huge amounts of energy to

work that, ultimately, contributes little to the end product that

clients really want. Advertising.

Here’s an illustration from my private catalogue of painful experiences.

A beer campaign currently on air features a famous comedian. It’s funny,

nicely crafted and no doubt working hard. It’s for a brand we lost to a

fellow roster agency and, dammit, I’m jealous - but not because they

beat us. Ce n’est pas la guerre.

No, what fills me with envy, perverse though it may seem, is that they

very nearly ran out of time. Circumstances conspired to leave the client

without a campaign roughly a month before an airdate he was absolutely

committed to.

Client and agency teams alike had no option but to throw themselves into

the task of creating commercials rather than drawing up brand equity

grids, demand cluster analyses or mood boards.

And this after our own team had frittered away some nine months in

interminable client meetings, debating such issues as whether a target

drinker could be both hedonistic and discerning, wheher the anticipation

of an ‘unveiling pint’ (sic) was best described as an emotional or

visceral response, or whether ‘ale values’ were captured in every frame

of an animatic.

It’s said that clients have got better at advertising. I suggest that

they have got better at advertising methodologies and we have only

ourselves to blame.

I sometimes wonder if today’s ‘IPA effectiveness culture’, for all the

good it has done in adding professional integrity to our business, has

unwittingly created a monster - a parallel universe in which concepts

like ‘semantic decoding’, ‘branded memorability’ and ‘lines of best fit’

have achieved an abstract significance all of their own.

This has come about because most agencies still cling doggedly to

outmoded working practices that compromise their ability to meet client

desire for direct paths to the right advertising.

Our clients have re-engineered the way they work: multidisciplinary

project teams; just-in-time manufacturing; fast-track new product

development. By contrast, the vast majority of agencies have hidden

under the duvet.

There are exceptions, most notably the agency formerly known as Chiat

Day, and Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, both of which have blazed the

trail of collaborative creative development.

At our place we’ve introduced, with great success, commonsense processes

such as multidisciplinary advertising workshops, brainstorming adcepts

with clients and tissue meetings to show early ideas in a very rough


So, to reduce stress and pointlessly long hours, try getting clients

around a table with creative people and encourage an honest exchange of

thoughts, ideas and prejudices. If only we had done that from the outset

with the ‘unveiling ale’.

Agencies need to invite their clients into the creative department,

literally and metaphorically. Our sister agency down under, Campaign

Palace, has the corporate philosophy: ‘Do great ads and have a laugh.’

It really should be that simple.


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