Dear Nick, I DO Love Creatives …

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by: Alain Thys

There’s nothing like being misquoted to get the blogger in me out of hibernation. Especially if the misquote happens on-stage in Cannes and is done by someone as esteemed as Nick Moore  (watch video below). While I’m still a bit unsure whether I should be flattered for being in the same breath as Rupert Murdoch or stunned for being called a "bullshitter", I thought I’d write a post to set the record straight.   (UPDATE: Nick contacted me with the message he was perhaps a bit rash in his judgment.  Kudos to a man who practices what he preaches, when it comes to conversations !)


 As a start, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear.  In contrast to the "Lost in Translation" message which apparently reached Nick, I don’t think we don’t need or should get rid of creatives. In fact, I LOVE creatives. Some of my best friends are creatives. My son of 8 is highly creative. Almost everyone I know describes me as a creative. In fact, I believe that creativity is one of the things that make our world worth living.

There is, of course, a "but". When it comes to advertising, not all creatives are alike. I regularly come across minds I tremendously respect. But they are matched in numbers by those who confuse advertising with art, effectiveness with winning awards, relevance with million dollar budgets. Because let’s face it, the reason why we laugh at movies like Inspiration Anyone?, Truth in Ad Sales  or Truth in Advertising is because we recognise their core of reality. 

And while it is easy for the enlighted creative classes to blame the advertiser that cannot brief, I believe there is no such thing as a stupid client. There are only agencies that are insufficiently convincing.

So, as I was on the topic, I’ve summarised some of the criteria which I regularly use to either help agencies strengthen their competitive position, or help brands to evaluate whether they are making the right choices when it comes to spending their money.  You don’t need to agree, yet in case anyone would like to quote me on Cannes 2009, at least you’ve got the correct context 😉

Because remember … I do love you


… which start with the business objective behind the briefing
David Ogilvy was wise: "you sell, or else". Marketing is about making money. Period. While sceptics claim that marketing’s ROI is difficult to calculate, this excuse is used too often to skip the money-conversation all together. That is why I love creatives that start by talking money and never leave the subject. That challenge the brief until it is hyper-focused on the choice drivers that matter That measure results by the financial objectives achieved, and only then look at the Lions or even Effie’s in their cupboard.

… that understand that customers are human
We all know that all women aged 28-34 are not the same, but billions in media are still planned as if they are. We all know that different customers have different motives at different moments, but most campaigns still adhere to the mantra one product = one insight. I love creatives who do NOT blast one message to a million different people that experience life in a million different ways. I love creatives who tailor their messages as much as possible to the individual and his state of mind. If only because that way, they have something interesting to say.

… who make my conversations and my life more interesting
By now, most agencies traffic in my word-of-mouth, yet only few creatives really get involved in making my brand experiences worth talking about. I love the creatives who look beyond the tricks of the buzz-trade. Who tell their client they will NOT do an ad-campaign as there’s more value in upgrading the call centre or the after-sales support. Who recommend internal communication programmes to ensure that the client’s people "get" the strategy they are asked to implement, so they can in turn delight their customers. I love creatives who care more about me, than about being witty.
… who embrace the mediaplan, and then kick it
Over the past 20 years it has continued to elude me how an entire industry gets away with separating media from creative, and pretend this actually works. I love creatives who refuse to work on mediaplans that don’t make sense, and in stead sit with planners and strategists to figure out what mix has most relevance for the inviduals that are being targeted. Who point out that GRP debates are usually a waste of time. Who pro-actively reduce their budgets’ cause spending more is pointless anyway. Who put the customer’s interest first.

…who respect themselves and their clients
All agencies "love their clients", yet many still smile and go along, even when the client clearly got on the wrong bus. After all, he is paying the bills.  To me, that’s not love, that’s prostitution. Loving your client doesn’t mean mindlessly doing what he says, but focusing on what he means.  What he needs. I love creatives who have enough respect for their clients (and themselves) to always tell the truth and argue their case on facts. And when the chips are down, are unafraid to say "we’ll do as you ask, because you pay the bills, yet for the record we don’t believe this is going to work".

… who understand that all of the above is "their department"
Yes, I know the world doesn’t work the way I just described. Account management, production, media, creative, design, etc. are all part of the puzzle. In fact, there are so many departments that most agencies even employ people to remind the rest that there is an actual customer out there (a little wave to all the planners :-). I love creatives that fight this world of siloes and ensure nothing leaves their desk that isn’t relevant to the client and its customers, that isn’t insightful and communicated with passion. Because real creatives use the limitations of the brief, the client and the agency to craft ideas that deliver the financial result and simply blow you away.

So when Nick said that I thought everyone in Cannes should be out of a job, I think he was being a bit too harsh. But when reading the above, maybe some would be in line for some soul searching …