Agencies are always on a hiding to nothing in television
It’s too easy to confirm the flash adman stereotype. So it was
astonishing that Bates Dorland emerged with credit from this week’s ad
industry episode of the Hale and Pace Jobs for the Boys series.
The product was a new Dixcel toilet tissue whose USP is, it’s got
dimples and is thereby - allegedly - softer. Selling bog roll is, of
course, a cue for instant mirth.
Except, that is, for the earnest client whose livelihood depends on it,
and the consumer who must buy some every week. This was not ’your life
in their hands’. A certain suspension of disbelief was required. Viewers
are now advertising-literate enough to realise this.
Hale and Pace had a head start over most aspiring creatives. They have a
proven record in comedy, have written sketches and even appeared in ads.
It was also a TV programme that required their ideas to get made.
They very nearly didn’t. We followed the duo first to a shoot, next to
the Watford copywriting course, then off to the Dixcel factory to
interrogate the product, and back to the agency where they presented an
end-less stream of ideas to an unimpressed creative director, who’d seen
them all before. Of course, the duo could write funny sketches, but what
relevance did these have to the client’s product?
We all learned a few things. The obvious lesson was the importance of a
clear brief - all they had was ’it’s got dimples, so it’s softer’ - in a
market where all brands sell on softness. Another was what a
soul-destroying job being a creative can be. How many people have the
fruit of their personal imagination and labour so frequently blown out?
A third lesson was how difficult being a creative director is, having to
reject work without destroying people’s confidence. A fourth was that
it’s true, research is killing creativity - or at least people’s ability
to make the kind of instinctive judgments they are paid for. The fifth
is that the BACC needs sorting out. The harmlessness of the scripts
rejected was matched only by the apparent randomness of the ruling,
Perhaps the biggest lesson was that it’s the client who is under the
most intense pressure.
It’s his money, his business, his brand.
Despite their fame, despite the TV programme, Hale and Pace began to get
genuinely stressed out about their task in a way they hadn’t over - for
example - designing a fashion collection. You genuinely felt for them as
they awaited feedback from the focus groups. Luckily they did get an
idea through. Amazingly, it was fresh, it was funny and the client was
happy. They, and the watching millions, had learned how tough
advertising was. Not long after this was filmed so did the creative
director - Tim Ashton.