Thursday, March 06, 2008

Are Creative Directors Really Necessary?

First Ogilvy canned Malc. Full story here. Comments on it here.

Now Rapier have removed an old friend and colleague of mine, Andrew Fraser.

In both cases, creative work will continue to be overseen by creative directors, but there will be no overall Executive Creative Director.

The rule of thumb is it takes three similar events to imply a trend, but I'm so worried, I'm calling this after two.

There's a head of office services and a head of catering, for fuck's sake, so what makes them think the creative department can sail rudderless? And let's not forget, the ECD will often be the leader of the whole agency.

Plus you need someone at the top who fights for good work. It's no coincidence that all the agencies that have gone bust, shrunk or merged in recent years were doing poor work, e.g. Bates, DMB&B, CDP.

Do you really think this could be the start of a trend?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Andrew - a very decent bloke - may have found Townsend looking over his shoulder a bit too much to handle. The fact Andrew's more celebrated probably didn't help given a man who can't entirely trust others to manage the creative product. That's silly. What's the point of hiring 'names' if you're not going to let them cut loose.

Holly said...

I'm sad to hear that - Andrew Fraser is a brilliant bloke and was really good to me while I worked at Rapier.

I'm going to try and get him hired at my new agency, ha ha.

Seriously, though, I hope he finds a new position worthy of his talent. I'd hire him in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

No - I don't think this 'trend' will continue. I have no basis for my findings as I work on the production side of the industry, and haven't been doing that for long, relatively speaking.
I can't see the likes of Jeremy Craigen, Paul Brazier and Leon Jaume ousted - they are surely just too good..... aren't they?

rjhayter said...

I don't think this is a trend, Scamp. Both Ogilvy and Rapier are going through a lot of change – but of radically different kinds. Rapier has had a lot of growth in the last 12 months (Fraser's exit = growing pains?) whereas Ogilvy Advertising is stagnating (and that's being polite) in the face of growth across the rest of it's group (in other words, Ogilvy One is showing it up).

Creative departments do need a leader. And it always will be so (at least I bloody hope so – I'm a CD!) But just the one. Any more than one never, ever works in the long run.

Anonymous said...

it's just creative. who cares? it's easy. anyone can do it. money comes in magically. more accountants, more suits.

Anonymous said...

Maybe these guys just aren't as good as they used to be? Do creative powers fade in some? Top names disappear from the industry every year or so. Larry Barker anyone? Tony Cox?

nextgen said...

Not sure about London, but many ECDs here in the US are very unecessary, as they don't affect the day-to-day work at all, merely talk a good game to the creative department (behind closed doors, of course), then side with Acct. Srvc and Planning when it comes to what goes forward (all in the name of "servicing the client").

The only decent work they touch is the self-funded, run-it-once-in-a-small-town-magazine variety, done strictly as an award show entry piece and not representative of the agency's normal output whatsoever. If clients only knew how much faster and smarter we could all work without these overpaid, undertalented roadblocks in the way. Then again, most clients are inefficient, multi-layered organizations, too. So it's a match made in heaven, I guess.

Toad said...

You're talking *E*CDs, right Scamp?

As in big agencies. Smaller shops have one CD.

It's a tough call. At some level all the ECD does is add an extra layer to an already layer-heavy creative department.

At another level though, they balance out the account side person who's at a similar level and give voice to the creative department.

It's more about how an agency is structured than actually serving a purpose.

rubbishcorp said...

I think the quality of those agencies future creative output will correlate directly with their need (or not in this case) for a CD.

Anonymous said...

No frickin way, just got back from holiday tonight. I met Andrew on an awards jury a few years ago, not only did I know his work as a creative/creative director but very quickly got to see a giant mind, a giant heart. He is a rare breed of creative person, who feels its better say posetive things and keep the negative things to himself. Rapier, i think just let someone go who is better than they are. It wont be long until he gets a job he deserves.
D

Anonymous said...

Re: Nextgen

I think clients are starting to figure out how much smoother and faster agencies can run without the extra roadblocks, and it is getting pretty tough to justify their presence.

Work should only go through one CD, not 3, and that one CD should f*cking rock. Agencies, and creatives especially complain about good ads being killed by committee, yet so many seem to be doing this to themselves.

So. Necessities. Oxygen, food, water and shelter...7 CD's...not so much.

Anonymous said...

let's face it, if you're a unit of a holding company, creative flavor is not going to be your selling point. ddb london is an exception to this rule.

but does anyone really care who the ecd of ogilvy uk is? we all know the clients were not drawn there by the promise of cutting edge creative.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3.05am: Nobody chooses an agency on the basis of good account servicing. Creative is the main – if not only – deciding factor as cost and service can be negotiated (you can't negotiate a better creative department).

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.14 am:

Then why is it so many agencies produce campaigns that kick ass at awards shows and somehow they always manage to lose the account 3months later?

Hugo J Handmuff said...

I think agencies should replace all creative directors with constantly refreshed focus groups. That's who most concepts end up in front of and being approved by. It would save time and money.

Solving problems. It's what I do.

Toad said...

>> Nobody chooses an agency on the basis of good account servicing. Creative is the main – if not only – deciding factor as cost and service can be negotiated (you can't negotiate a better creative department).>>

If you add the word "should" before any of your verbs, then you'll wind up with an accurate statement.

Sadly, in the real world, things like a lower monthly retainer fee or a brother-in-law who went to college with the agency's owner are just as likely to be reasons for choosing an agency.

Anonymous said...

AOkay wer'e going into war but um...the chain of command is not all there so um...you just reprt to yourselves and you guys over there, even though you have been doing a good job as Seargents we aren't going to have a Commander any more. Sorry, don;t think it's necessary.

Any agency that wants to be good needs a clear direction both for the work and for the agency. It also needs experience, guidance and mentoring. This comes from an ECD. It cannot come from an empowered many. We all know too well the consequences of design and direction by comittee. To not have such a role is at the risk of the agency and it proves their disregard for genuine work. Save the costs, the work? Well it will be okay.
Luckily places like WK have a number of CD's that look after business and an ECD structure that looks after the general scope of work and the direction for the agency. Not so sure about Fallon or others. But yes, when it works it works bloody well.
It will only be a trend for not so good agencies that have no vision, or have less of a regard for the work.

fatc said...

Yes, anonymous, the "we're going to war" analogy is exactly the one used by layer-loving bureaucrats everywhere to justify their existence. Sadly, it's as old, tired and misplaced as most ECDs are.

"Experience, guidance and mentoring" is exactly what most ECDs do not provide. If they did, the question of their necessity would not have been raised. But they do not and this is exactly the reason many of us have posted as to the ineffectiveness of the position. Granted, there may be one or two out there who are the exception, but that's more a testament to their own personal character than it is to the need for the position everywhere.

"It cannot come from the empowered many."
Really? Then why have the many at all? Sounds like an ECD has done some awfully bad hiring there. (Yet another reason to get rid of him.)

I'll take an agency of seasoned self-starters capable of working without the need for an overpaid "Office Dad" over a collection of underlings waiting for permission to schedule the next internal meeting any day.

Leaders with vision who actually lead are one thing. But for the most part, that is the opposite of what you'll find right now in the bigger agencies. In my opinion, the sooner clients catch on and demand better (smarter, more efficient, more interesting, more effective—however you choose to define it), the better for us all.

fatc said...

Correction: I'd like to strike the word "old" from the first paragraph in my comment above.

Not only does the word strike me as "age-ist", the common sense approach, respect-worthy methods and true leadership of previous generations is exactly what the creative side of our business presently lacks.

Apologies to anyone who may have rightly taken offense.

Anonymous said...

What's happening here??? Most of the comments posted sound like they're coming from a bunch of pumped up interns. Start separating the overall common goal of how to best achieve noticeable, ground breaking work for clients which generates public interest and in turn greater exposure and sales, into a battle of creative vs suits and you've already lost your so called 'war'. Stop losing sight you fucking barbarians. It's purely down to whether or not you have creative appreciation - the best agencies unquestionably have this. Apply a simple yes or no response to the following Q's. Do you want your agency to succeed in award rankings? Do you wish to have an identity that sets you apart and attract clients? Do you wish to be revered, envied, respected, requested to pitch based simply on how many positive column inches you've accrued through the press? Would it satisfy you working for an agency who received any less than this? Please, please set this idiotic debate to rest and give me/us just one agency that falls into the camp who are minus strong creative vision and branding for an agency. This stupidity sounds like it's based on ego and financial constraints - that much to date is transparent and clearly has nothing to do with the ECD's. Both ECD's are very well liked within our community and Ogilvy's creative rise is noted but unfortunately for the creatives they've both experienced their own road-blocks. Sheer foolish simplemindedness at the very top. Ogilvy and Rapier may be receiving some press now, but it's for all the wrong reasons and should add at the very least Rapier dealt with their situation with some integrity. I trust the relative CEO's and MD's have good retirement packages because they won't be thinking that they're too clever in a few year's time. And I doubt any of us in London anyhow will hear of them again. Who now is signing up to work for either agency, be it staff or client? Exactly!

Anonymous said...

Dear, no. We should just keep accounts and planning so they can have meetings and hypothesize all day. Why produce anything at all?

86the said...

Dear anonymnous 2:03,

If it were possible for a comment on a blog post to emit an audible screech, I believe yours has done it. The question raised by Scamp himself was: Are CDs necessary? Most of the comments here are simply offering an answer to that hypothetical question. No need to yell or accuse anyone of barbarism. Obviously, the question touches a nerve for you. There are a grand total of 21 comments here now. Not a ridiculous number. So why is it not OK for anyone else to even consider Scamp's question? Are you really that convinced that everyone who reads this blog views the business exactly as you do? Is there really no room at all for considering new approaches? Honestly, your demand that the discussion be immediately stopped based solely upon your own little list of the only things that matter makes me want to disagree with you just to spite you. Nothing is static. Especially in advertising. Someone with opinions as strong as yours should know that. The really funny thing is, by being so closedminded, I'd argue you've marked yourself as the least creative person here.

Anonymous said...

Dear 86th. You're correct on one point; by definition I perhaps am the least 'creative' person here who's posted a blog, given that my role is to service the clients. Should I apologise for my passionate view though, no. Sure some things need to evolve in order to survive, however, the combination of great business and creative leadership has worked for decades. But you, however, in all your infinite wisdom and patronising tone, have failed to provide the 20 other bloggers and myself with the answer I was asking in response to Scamp's question: provide us with one (JUST ONE) successful agency which operates minus an ECD.

86the said...

anon,
Honestly, I can't name a "succesful" (as I'm guessing you'd define it) agency without an ECD. But I don't think that proves anything relevant to the original question.

Sacmp's question was "Are CDs necessary?" not "Can anyone name a succesful agency that operates without one?" That was YOUR question, and in my view an attempt to reframe the argument and pass final judgement on the lot of us.

I don't think anyone is questioning what the status quo is. ECDs are everywhere. The question is, should they be in future? I don't claim to have the only answer. Your stated unwillingness to let others discuss the question in a reasoned manner is the only thing I find fault with.

Anonymous said...

86the, I think we should politely agree to disagree and move on.