Standing up for creativity needs more buy-in from the paymasters if it’s going to work

I see that Campaign is launching “Campaign for creativity” (subscription required), timed for the Cannes Lions presumably.

“We are for creativity” the magazine says, flagging “a shared commitment by our journalists around the world to champion creativity and hold the ad industry to account.”

Quite how it will hold offenders’ feet to the fire is not made clear but no doubt the serried ranks of media agencies, bean counters and, of course, clients who do not so value creativity will suffer an awful fate.

But do such initiatives, with which we wholly agree (jokes aside) have a real chance of making a difference? There’s one big UK advertiser with a long history of decent advertising which now won’t contemplate any commercial/video longer than 30 seconds because the consultants say that’s what works/is cost effective. Even if it means the ads mostly misfire.

And people still pour money into Facebook and the like even though they know much of it disappears down the drain.

Are creative agencies wholly or partly to blame? The holding companies have much to answer for, directing investment from their creative agencies to media agencies and ecommerce. That’s where the money is, they’ll say, but this is rather self-fulfilling. If insufficiently resourced creative agencies can’t hack it any more, of course money will flow elsewhere.

Should other people have a go? WPP’s MediaCom Manchester (a media agency) has been handling Erdinger wheat beet for a couple of years now and seems to have improved its sales and market share. Media agencies unleashed on creative is usually a recipe for disaster: their job is to get money away in the right places and, if the work is pants, so be it.

Erdinger, rather bravely, started off in the North West of England with campaign featuring Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Sure to appeal to one half of Liverpool but what about the Everton supporters, not to mention bitter (local) rivals the Manchester clubs?

Well it’s not bad, nicely shot although a bit more irony would have helped. But you don’t get too much of that anywhere these days as ads become more about imparting information. They shout rather than persuade, partly because the latter takes longer.

If media agencies finally begin to make ads which are more than serviceable, that’s another threat to creative agencies. But it’s one thing to detect an opponent (albeit often one owned by the same holding company), quite another to do anything meaningful about it.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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