Paul Shearer, creative partner at HMDG
Paul Shearer, creative partner at HMDG
A view from Paul Shearer

Paul Shearer: For ideas built on insight, advertisers still need agencies

The number of production companies doing direct-to-client advertising work is on the rise.

Surely that's not fair to us ad folk? The very people who have fed, watered and feted them over the years.

But maybe it's less to do with production companies and more to do with how clients feel about us. Ask yourself: why do clients think it's better without us? In my humble creative opinion, there are two reasons: product and process.

If our end product is not extraordinary, the client has every right to question all the time and money they have invested in the agency. Simply put, if the finished product doesn't knock it out of the ballpark, why shouldn't the client shout "You're out"?

A bit harsh, but that's how it is for a Chelsea FC manager.

Second, are we a bit slow and inflexible for these nervy economic times? When your business is in the brown stuff, you need help yesterday.

If we're honest, we have a lot to learn from production companies. In their DNA, they are closely related to ad agencies. But the key difference is that they are not mired in the bureaucratic process. Directors take responsibility for making their product engaging and unique. They give a passionate opinion on ideas and are not afraid to take risks. They can be unerringly positive and resourceful and they act as partners. When you experience such professionalism, it's no wonder a client might want to work direct. So what is to be done?

We need to remember what has always made us great. What makes a client think: "I just can't live without these guys."

We need to focus on two things: our product and process. First, we should aim to make our creative outstanding. Outstanding, effective ideas are always built on powerful insight. And the best creative agencies have always delivered both. Mother, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Wieden & Kennedy are three of many. Production companies may provide creative execution, but they can't compete on ideas built on insight.

Second, we have a great opportunity to create bespoke processes that enable, rather than hinder, creativity - fast, flexible and focused on the client's agenda. The best modern creative agencies increasingly offer tight, multi-skilled senior teams, direct access to creative people and fluid, open-minded approaches to the business problem.

So, I'd say let's not get frustrated when it comes to production companies. They are great and will always be great.

The amazing Laura Gregory from Great Guns could run any big ad agency successfully. There's no point feeling sorry for ourselves - we just need to pull our socks up.

Product and process are the two things that agencies will always win on. Be the best in your class, and worry less about other people and more about what we are doing.

Paul Shearer is the creative partner at HMDG

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