OPINION: BBH tries to offset creative overload

There’s two ways of interpreting Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s decision to promote up to half a dozen senior creatives to support John O’Keeffe, its newly appointed executive creative director.

There’s two ways of interpreting Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s decision to

promote up to half a dozen senior creatives to support John O’Keeffe,

its newly appointed executive creative director.



One is that the agency is unsure about whether O’Keeffe is capable of

doing the job unaided, a question that’s bound to be asked given the

time it spent considering prospects in Europe and the US before opting

for one of its own. Not likely, though, since O’Keeffe is not only of

proven creative pedigree but has shadowed the job well enough for the

past two years.



The other is that BBH has recognised what is already apparent to those

in its agency peer group, namely that the demands on large creative

departments are now so great that they are too much for one individual

to handle.



The latter is almost certainly the case. John Hegarty, BBH’s group

chairman and worldwide creative director, acknowledges that the

pressures being put on Bruce Crouch, O’Keeffe’s predecessor, had become

intolerable and that his departure has presented an opportunity to take

stock and make changes.



In doing so, BBH is recognising how much the balance of power is

swinging towards clients and how creative departments of the future will

have to spread responsibilities if they are to remain responsive.



Clients who pay the piper quite naturally want to call the tune and all

want a piece of the executive creative director. One day he’s flying to

Brussels for a European group meeting, the next it’s a train trip to

Leeds.



Demands for fully integrated creative solutions from above the line to

direct marketing and new media only add to the burden.



Small wonder that some creative chiefs are either choosing to get out

from under, or stepping to one side, before they become burned out.

Witness Mike Court’s decision last year to cede control of

McCann-Erickson’s creative department to a trio of creative directors

and Peter Souter’s hiring of the veteran Tony Cox alongside him at

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.



These situations are bound to involve tricky management decisions.

Devolving responsibility mustn’t be allowed to dilute an agency’s

creative focus, and brilliant creatives don’t necessarily make great

managers. Put dedicated creatives on a single account and the work

threatens to become stale.



But the biggest hurdle creative chiefs may have to surmount is their own

egos. Loosening the reins may be vital - but it’s never easy.



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