Agencies Lead The Way With Ideas, Not Just Ads

Agencies Lead The Way With Ideas, Not Just Ads
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Article by Paul Dunne, a Creative Director at M&C Saatchi.

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the role and value of creative professionals in advertising agencies over the past few years.

From the Mad Men glory days, creative people within agencies are now seen as more Darrin Stephens (the ad guy from 60s series Bewitched) than Don Draper.

Now that ideas are taken from multiple sources, the mystique to what agency creatives do has gone. And you could argue that maybe it’s about time. But happily, for agencies and their creative departments, I’m sensing a rejuvenation of our core purpose – to generate ideas that make our clients money.

Part of that role has always been to use ideas to help build our clients’ brands. To get people talking about them, and remember them. Much of that task is now shared between advertising agencies, content providers, PR specialists and consumers themselves.

But although the spread of ideas has become democratized, let’s not confuse dissemination with origination. It all has to start with an idea. And no industry is better equipped to generate them than the ad industry.

Sure, a brilliant idea can come from anyone, anywhere at any time. You only have to look online for proof. In fact YouTube can be as “inspiring” today as a Shots reel used to be back in the old days. But the fact of the matter is only people who make their living as creatives tend to come up with ideas consistently, on-demand, and for stuff they don’t necessarily give a shit about.

And the people most capable of doing this – day in, day out – are still found congregating in advertising agencies. They have been for generations.

I remember seeing an original document (circa 1960) from George Patterson Advertising where they proposed page after page of beautifully illustrated new product ideas – the Delta Cream amongst them. (OK – it’s not up there with the Monte, nor does it have the celebrity status of a Tim Tam, but the Delta Cream is still an Aussie classic.) How inspiring to think this new product idea originated from an ad agency, at a time when their client looked to them to generate ideas – advertising or otherwise – that would make them money.

Today, we’re finding more and more of our clients are realising they’re not exploiting the full potential of the creative resource at their disposal. They’re beginning to see the value of creative thinking to their business – not just their advertising – and it’s making agencies exciting, creative places to work once more.

A few weeks back Optus (one of our clients) launched a world-first shark-detecting ocean buoy in partnership with Google. Clever Buoy is an idea with enormous commercial potential that came from the agency as a very non-traditional response to a real brief. Not only did the agency come up with the idea, it championed the R&D project that got it built to prove the concept. A compelling demonstration of Optus’s network that is also a solution to an age-old, real-world problem.

It’s a wonderful example of a client really getting the most out of their agency, and the ideas culture within it.

Sure, ideas can and do come from anywhere. But when you’re looking for them, don’t forget there’s a bunch of wonderfully creative people working at your agency, eager to oblige.

Paul Dunne, a Creative Director at M&C Saatchi

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