Here’s one for Channel 4: a new TV series to find the creative supremo to spark a new wave of UK agencies

My prediction for 2014 in the world of advertising is we will see a few start-ups shake up the UK industry. It’s a long time overdue.

The climate is heading towards the perfect conditions for new, shiny and interesting agencies to open their doors for several reasons. The chances of success are better during an economic upswing rather than a downswing, and right now UK Plc is looking positive and the green shoots are visible.

Over the last 5-10 years we’ve seen a number of start-ups make their mark on the UK industry, e.g. adam&eve, CHI&Partners, VCCP, Albion, Karmarama, 18 Feet & Rising, and some yet to crash through the glass ceiling of scale, e.g. Johnny Fearless, Will/London. However the number is lower than previous waves of start-ups. Maybe the climate over the last 3-5 years has been too scary to bet the house on a new venture.

The biggest agency of the aforementioned list is likely to be CHI & Partners under the stewardship of Johnny Hornby (below). CHI’s success appears to be built on big, traditional advertising properties such as their work for British Gas and Argos. Nothing wrong with that at all, just the reverse in terms of their financial performance.

Adam&Eve’s signature client is John Lewis. Great work over recent years, clever, excellent productions yet very mainstream in a kind of middle England way.

For me the gap is the stuff that makes us all sit back and go “wow, where did that come from?”. It’s a while since I’ve had that reaction.

You have to look over the Atlantic to New York for the “wow” factor. The Droga5 New York output is definitely fresh and different, they have become the trailblazer there outwitting every established agency across the US. So do we need our version of David Droga in the UK to give the industry a kick up the backside? If so where is he or she? Maybe their recent new London office will be the kick start needed.

The environment in the UK has not been conducive to braveness for some time; recession, safety first, procurement, globalisation, confusion, fragmentation, social media and so on. The UK has a worldwide reputation for creativity, think music, but the environment hasn’t been kind to nurturing creativity in the advertising community. The Johnny Fearless website sums up the challenges very well but sadly they have not had enough high profile clients take them up on their beliefs, shame.

Maybe it takes a David Droga type if person to defy the establishment and do it his or her way. It takes balls and talent and probably a safety net of some personal wealth to stick ones neck out and start humming Sinatra with “I did it my way”. This approach will never come from the big groups, never has done, because the financial pressures makes everyone ‘risk averse’. It needs a few individuals with real talent to forget risk and try brave.

images-3A big distinction with Droga5 is the boss; (left) he is a creative. Same with W&K with Dan Wieden. It has been the same in the UK in the past, Trott, Abbott, Hegarty et al. So based on this flimsy analysis perhaps the search should be on for the next creative supremo who has the backbone to start his or her own agency.

Maybe another show for Channel 4; “The Creative Supremo”. Each week 4 candidates have a week to solve a brief and present their ideas, after six weeks the winners pitch against each other and the final winner gets £500,000 to start his or her own agency. All the good ones would be guaranteed jobs either way.

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