The Secret Marketer talks about creatives

In my column last week, I suggested that an agency creative director may have put their own personal ego ahead of answering my brief. In doing this, I suggested that the agency had completely ignored the rather sensible inputs of his account suit and planning colleagues.

It appears that I have upset a fair few creative types, who did not like my suggestion that this kind of thing still goes on. I hate to tell you guys this, but even if it is not happening at your own shop, it is very much still prevalent at an agency near you.

This is not the first time in my career that I have had a spat with a creative. In fact, the older I get, the less tolerant I have become.

Before anybody accuses me of a crusade against the advertising community, I should point out that I am delighted to count several top creative directors among my closest personal friends. They are the smartest, most talented people I know.

When creative work is done properly, it is priceless and I have enjoyed first-hand experience of working on brands that have been completely transformed by the right creativity.

So I am a believer. But let’s face it, much of the work produced by our industry is solid but not spectacular. For every truly brilliant piece of work, there are hundreds of others that tick the boxes but don’t really move the dial.

For every truly brilliant piece of work, there are hundreds of others that tick the boxes but don’t really move the dial.

Clients are as guilty as anybody else for settling for mediocrity. This is one thing, but what drives me completely insane is when agencies present indulgent creative work that has little or no connection to the brand or business challenge that has been posed. Contrary to how some creatives still continue to treat it, the client brief is not a sponsored arts project.

We all understand that some creatives do not wish to spend their entire working life in marketing. For many, it pays the bills and provides a leg up to bigger dreams. One of the best creatives I ever worked with is now a film director. He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to leave the marketing sector behind.

The greatest compliment I can pay him is that when he worked in advertising he always focused on the task in hand. He took pride in doing a great job. I got terrific sales results and he got a ticket to the movies. I couldn’t have written a better script.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here