The biggest obstacle to great creative work is the corporate structure. The best way around this is to start at the head.
This may seem controversial. However, isn’t the customer’s vision, experience, and ability to use power important? Not to mention the strategic and creative potential of their organization? Undoubtedly, but after many years in the business (most recently as a consultant for both agencies and clients) I am sure that if you categorize all the different barriers to doing a good job, the structure of the list Sit on the head.
While not all buyers are brave, or have what Sir John Hegarty would simply call “taste,” many want to do the right thing. In fact, despite years of institutional gossip, there aren’t many idiots out there.
Similarly, even most of the agencies seem to have good people in them who fight well. The fact that they all read the same material and have the same tools and processes is not necessarily a bad thing. We live in a time when there is never more evidence of how and why communication works. Everything is there, so people naturally come up with broadly shared (and broadly correct) approaches and goals.
Yet much work remains bad and is therefore expensive (because it requires a lot of media costs to do so). In the UK, for example, the consumer agreement with the TGI (Target Group Index) statement that ‘advertising is as good as programs’ has been in steady decline since the early 1990s. In fact, it’s a ski slip.
But why, when there is the ability, knowledge and enthusiasm to work well on both the management and client sides?
I think the problem with marketing starts halfway through the corporate tree. Only rarely on executive management teams, almost never on boards.
So creative summary and work (sometimes even a company goal) is created in the middle of a corporate packing order and then turned upside down (often fearfully) for final approval.
Faced with work that they often did not see in the background and had no hand in the development, senior executives repeatedly denied it or called for more amendments. And, since they are formulating the original strategy for the company, they are not always wrong.
This situation is not only expensive in terms of time and fees. This is in line with the market’s slowness and often the ultimate efficiency of work. With widespread interference, the work often loses its spirit, or it loses the reality of what the company really is.
So how to treat? I think it pays to think about the most successful customer-organization relationships and the most valuable brands they have created. Think of Steve Jobs at Apple who works with Jay Chat and TBWA Lee Clooney, Phil Knight at Nick and his relationship with Widen Kennedy’s Dan Widen. Think – if you are senior in your organization or customer company – about the best, most rewarding customer-organization relationship you have. Almost inevitably they started in the head. As a result, they were faster, more productive, more creative and, ultimately, more efficient.
But without leaving it to the character and chance flexibility (never mind) how do you make sure it happens this way for your relationship? If you are on the customer side and know the situation, the best course of action you may have is to ask your CEO and management team to get involved at the beginning of the process rather than at the end. Creating a brand summary with you and your organization. This will make the best use of your corporate bravery for the year. Go and talk to them. Share this article with them if it helps. If they are part of the process at the beginning, things will get much easier after they see the work. I promise.
If you are on the management side, then it is time to close your belt and use your financial strength. Tell all incoming new customers, ‘This is how we work’. Create a process for editing. Don’t deviate or cave in because once again a strong point about the best way to work at the beginning of a relationship will be invaluable below the line.
Charles Weigley is a brand and communications consultant in the UK and a former director of BBH Asia. He first published the column on LinkedIn.