Why the agency ladder isn't the only way to the top
Are TV ad campaigns in the doldrums? Simon Hewitt, Managing Partner & MD at Orange Panther Collective, believes so, and also thinks that a different way for creatives to approach the briefs - and their careers - could be the answer.
I spent an embarrassingly large chunk of time this summer watching linear TV with the kids (on a classic, holiday home, vintage TV), which meant I actually got to see a load of ads.
My initial takeaway? There is a lot of mediocre, unmemorable work out there at the moment. Not much to write home about, really. But, don’t worry, this isn't your usual despair-at-the-state-of-modern-advertising article, promise. But I did get to wondering what might be behind this current lack of inspiration.
There is a lot of mediocre, unmemorable work out there at the moment.
It’s really easy to point fingers at the first stage of any creative work - the brief - and, to be fair, sometimes that’s not too far off the mark. After all, we have all seen very dry and functional client briefs in our time. But can the brief always be the root cause? I’m not convinced, so I thought I’d dig a bit deeper.
Above: TV advertising at the moment, says Simon Hewitt, has taken a creative nose-dive.
First place to start? Make sure all the briefs are really bloody good, right? That’s always been our ambition, through a tight filtering of who we work with (products and services that we believe will be the next big thing), then adding in the brilliant brains of our strategic team to help shape a razor sharp, insightful brief. But, even with the best of intentions, processes and brains, can every brief be great? Hmm….
The most powerful thing we can do is to stop seeing the brief as the problem and instead look to the creative brains tackling that brief.
In this maelstrom of mediocrity some creative leaders might look to extra curricular, homemade briefs (proactive work, primarily) as a way of showcasing great thinking. The problem with this kind of work is that clients rarely choose to fund these ideas, leading to a situation where the commercial opportunity hinders the creative one. Agencies writing their own briefs doesn't seem to be the answer. So, what else?
Perhaps the most powerful thing we can do is to stop seeing the brief as the problem and instead look to the creative brains tackling that brief. Look to the casting. Rather than the usual agency model of whoever is free when a brief comes in, or always going to the most experienced/most awarded teams, what if we have a long, hard think about who is the right casting, who is best for the brief we’re working on, who will see this brief as an opportunity to make something great, not a duff brief to be shirked. After all, every creative brain has plenty to offer but needs to be given the right fuel to make it flourish.
Above: Not being a full time part of an agency set up can mean you can pick, and be picked for, more interesting creative projects.
This is how we're set up at the Orange Panther Collective. The beauty of our collective model, and the way we build bespoke project teams for every brief we work on, means creatives choose to work on our briefs because they're interested, because they care and because they are passionate about the client's business, their ambitions and/or the brief. And the greatest benefit of all of this is that the passion and commitment comes through in the work, of that I am convinced.
However, as we stare down the barrel of the cost of living crisis and the inevitable recession, a lot of creative talent want safety and security, making permanent roles seem like the logical choice for many. But that decision comes with its own risk, a risk of a lack of choice and the likelihood of working on briefs they don’t want to, and not just the ones that restrict creativity but also some that challenge their ethical code.
Nearly every big agency has a client that would challenge most people’s belief systems, from fossil fuels to fags, gambling to gas guzzling cars.
There is quite rightly a lot of discourse around ethics in advertising at the moment, with Greenpeace’s raid on Cannes highlighting how big the topic has become. Many creatives are understandably remonstrating about feeling obliged - or maybe even forced - to work on brands and products that fly in the face of their personal ethical code. But nearly every big agency has a client that would challenge most people’s belief systems, from fossil fuels to fags, gambling to gas guzzling cars and so on… and someone has to do the work right? Or should agencies be saying "no" to these types of clients (a conversation for another time, though we say ‘hell yes’ agencies should be saying "no" more)?
So, next year, to save me having to take my Amazon Fire Stick on holiday, I would challenge all those great creative minds out there to choose what they want to work on, to laugh in the face of the coming recession and to not waste time on 'boring' briefs.