Sunday, March 4, 2007

Angry man

On Friday my partner and I were putting the finishing touches to an award submission for a DM campaign we did last year when we were told that we wouldn't be allowed to enter the work. Why not? Apparently "the agency doesn't enter creative awards".

Now, putting aside my obvious displeasure - it's hardly great for my career - that policy seems like a mistake.

The official line is that the agency is all about effectiveness. We therefore enter effectiveness awards, but apparently we've told all our clients (if not our creative department) that we don't enter creative awards. Presumably this is because clients think awards are a bunch of self-indulgent wank.

It's not a bad argument as far as it goes, I suppose. It creates a unique positioning for the agency, signals that we have the clients' best interests at heart, etc.

Ultimately though, it's a pyrrhic victory. We lose more than we gain.

Regardless of how accurate they are, awards are the most obvious measure of an agency's creative strength. By saying we're not interested in creativity but are interested in effectiveness, we're essentially saying creativity and effectiveness are incompatible. That's kind of a perverse position.

How can a piece of communication be effective unless it's been first noticed and then engaged with by the consumer? And what better, more respectful way to accomplish both of those goals than by using creativity? If sugesting the two are incompatible isn't quite not logically inconsistent, it's damn close.

Clients are already suspicious of creativity; many of them wouldn't need much encouragement to jettison it entirely. If it is in fact logically prior to effectiveness, then in encouraging them to do so we're doing them a massive disservice.

But not as large a one as we're doing ourselves, because ultimately creativity is all we have to offer.

Think about it. Clients can, and often do, hire inhouse designers. They can liase with media planners. They can commission research. Sometimes, if beaten over a long enough period with a large enough stick, the better ones can even assemble, think through, structure and write a brief.

Sure, agencies tend to do all of those things better, but only if you define "better" as "in a way that encourages good creative."

If they don't need it, then why do they need us?

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