OPINION: Financial incentive is profit sharing by a different name

Chris Clark is convinced that an offer of money for award-winning ads does not subvert the creative cause. Acclaimed work is good for a client and deserves reward.

Chris Clark is convinced that an offer of money for award-winning

ads does not subvert the creative cause. Acclaimed work is good for a

client and deserves reward.

Advertising can be an odd business at the best of times. We compete in a

gladiatorial fashion where the stakes run at their highest for winners

and losers.

The prize of victory is the hero worship of colleagues and reluctant

admiration and envy of peers. The price of failure can mean the loss of

a job and a career that needs a radical rethink.

So, given our competitive nature, it should be an out-and-out,

dog-eat-dog, vicious death-or-glory existence and, of course, it’s


It’s against this background that I would like to raise an issue that

seems to have caused a great deal of hostile debate; the rewarding of

success. This has been brought sharply into focus by our decision at

Bates Dorland to reward staff for success in our business in, perhaps, a

more overt fashion than has been done previously.

It’s worth setting the record straight in as much as the pounds 20,000

that we would pay on achievement of outstanding industry success

(Campaign, 6 December 1996) is shared among the creative team, account

people, planners, media, production and others who made a significant

contribution and, as well as the top creative awards, we’ve also

included the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

So, having at least set the record straight, how do we, as an industry,

feel about the whole debate of reward?

Those in the ’outraged of Soho’ camp’s primary objection is that it

would focus agency staff on the wrong agenda and lead to poor client

service and a scramble to produce one-off hits whose target audience is

awards juries.

This argument - or criticism - contains a dangerous contradiction. It’s

surely not accepted in our business that to win top creative awards you

need to produce one-offs that are counter to the client’s agenda and

that ’one such hit will convince the industry you’ve succeeded and look

good on your CV’.

Clearly the correlation between creativity (a subjective science) and

effectiveness (a provable one) is difficult. But the commercial value of

creative excellence is often significant and, therefore, those

responsible should be rewarded.

I’m sure that Tom Carty and Walter Campbell, who produced 1996’s most

awarded and outstanding piece of advertising in the Volvo ’twister’

commercial, have seen some reward from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and I’m

sure the Volvo client is equally pleased with the commercial results

that team’s effort has produced.

The difference here is that it didn’t make the front page of


We’re a commercial industry and should be proud of rewarding success,

not damning it as a prop for ailing agencies.

The farcical contradiction within the point of view that if your agency

is dysfunctional then hold out a large success carrot, shut your eyes

and the thing will fix itself, is obvious.

It pre-supposes reward as remedy, rather than reward because we want to

succeed and believe we will.

Success in our business, by whatever measure, deserves reward. It’s

common knowledge that winning a large account in most agencies results

in the delivery of a plain brown envelope to those who made the


To believe that our reward will be in heaven in a business that can feel

like hell is pious and inane.

Here at Bates, we are focused on providing our clients with effective

creative solutions and when we produce something very special we’re

proud and hopeful of its recognition in the awards world.

Nothing would give our chairman, Graham Hinton, and me more pleasure

than to hand over our first pounds 20,000 to the Superdrug team. Fingers

crossed, chaps.

As John Paul Getty said when asked how he got rich: ’I got up early,

worked hard and struck oil.’