Agencies need ‘total creativity’

Divisions between creative and account handling departments should be less rigid. A clear strategy involving creativity at every stage is more in tune with today’s ad remit. By John Shannon. John Shannon is president of Grey International

The division between creative development and account handling has long been a feature of ad agencies. Yet increasingly this polarisation is seen as artificial and anachronistic and there is a growing belief that it is preventing agencies from meeting changing client requirements.

The issue was outlined recently by Nestlé Deutschland’s communications director Michel Reinarz in an interview with the German advertising publication W&V.

Having worked for Young & Rubicam and Publicis before joining Nestlé a year ago, Reinarz is well equipped to examine the problem from both the agency and the advertiser perspective. His experience has led him to observe that one of the biggest mistakes agencies ever made was to set up creative departments.

Iconoclastic though he may sound, Reinarz is not, in reality, proposing that agencies get rid of their creatives. He is saying such a strict division of labour implies that only some staff are creative and that others are merely there to act as “postmen”, delivering ideas to clients.

Like many marketing people, Reinarz sees this division as symptomatic of an agency culture which gives disproportionate importance to above-the-line work.

Instead, he would like to see creativity permeating every aspect of the agency, and a desire to explore different types of communications in search of the best solutions.

There is no denying the pertinence of these observations. Today’s multinational advertisers are looking for more from their agencies than the ability to make commercials. They are looking for advisers who think creatively about business requirements and offer solutions or ideas that are relevant to brand building.

Most of the larger agencies have always argued that effective communication and long-term brand building is rooted in sound marketing intelligence. Recently this school has been challenged by those who believe that the greatest marketing challenge is to make ads that get noticed.

But Reinarz’s comments reflect a widespread belief that this second position has run its course. His message is that cohe- rence in communication and strategy of a brand is paramount. By assimilating this key thought, agencies can move away from the restrictive concept of creative “departments” and think instead of “total creativity”.

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