Sunday, April 21, 2013

Should The CD Also Write Ads?

This question was asked by a commenter last week.

And the answer is 'no'.

Because the danger is that whatever the CD writes, they will think is brilliant. This is normal - we all think our own stuff is brilliant. But normally, there's a CD there to tell you it's actually piss-poor... unless you are the CD, in which case everyone will tell you it's great, because you're their boss.

The agency will have lost one of the most important advantages of the CD system: objectivity. And it will most likely have gained a bad ad.



The boss actually thought his own ad was pretty darn good


Furthermore, if the CD writes something, and it gets bought, who's going to make it? The CD won't have time, so it will probably get shoved onto some young team. Which will be awful for them. No one gets into advertising to make someone else's ideas, everyone gets into advertising to make their own ideas. And they won't do as good a job as if it were their own idea - we all do a better job when we feel ownership. 

I understand why CD's sometimes write ads. Sometimes, they just want to. (Ego.) Other times, they're frustrated because they feel their teams aren't producing the goods (which in reality is their own fault). And sometimes, they want to 'set an example' to the teams. (Ego again).

But probably the biggest reason is they want credit. A lot of the work a CD does - working with the strategists to refine a brief, working with the teams to refine an idea - is 'invisible'. So CD's are often tempted to write stuff themselves, to 'prove their worth'.

Now comes the tricky part. I've been careful to say up to now that I don't think CD's should 'write ads', by which I mean they shouldn't do the whole thing. But that doesn't mean CD's shouldn't have ideas. They should. Hundreds of them. 

Firstly, they should be working collaboratively with the strategists to come up with ideas around what the brief should be. (You may be surprised to hear that many CD's put virtually zero effort into the brief, feeling that it's 'not their job'. Bullshit. Working with the strategists to get to a great brief should be a huge part of their job).

And secondly, they should be working collaboratively with the creative teams (in fact, the whole agency) to get to great ideas. That could mean throwing out an interesting 'half-idea' that the creatives can build on, or it could mean finding a way to turn a half-thought of someone else's into something great.

So in summary, a good CD never 'writes ads', but instead comes up with hundreds of half-ideas. And takes zero credit for them. Sounds tough, but that's the job as I see it.
 

19 comments:

Richard Huntington said...

Not sure I totallly agree that CDs should never write ads. They only get to where they are by being bloody good at that and it seems a shame to cut them off from making some stuff from time to time. That said I totally agree with you about CDs creating the brief with the planner - together they are better placed to find a sweet spot to let teams lose on than simply leaving it to the planner and hoping the result will be potent enough to create great work. CDs - I never leave home without one!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. Should be mandatory reading for all existing and wannabe CDs.
A planner (who thinks planners should stop calling themselves "strategists").

Anonymous said...

Absolutely 100% true.

Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part, but should CDs be able to write ads when required? For instance on a pitch, or when the creatives are under the pump?

I say yes. They should be able to use their objectivity and creative ability to swoop in and sort things out.

Anonymous said...

"...Other times, they're frustrated because they feel their teams aren't producing the goods (which in reality is their own fault)"

If that were true (that it's the CDs fault) then it follows that anyone can write good ads. Sometimes more junior teams just aren't as good at writing certain styles or type of ads. Or, like anyone, they can get stuck, and their may not be another team to step in.

Anonymous said...

if a shop is small, they sometimes need all hands on deck though.

in this instance, i've had a cd that took the crap jobs, to make sure the teams had good stuff to work on.

and i've had a cd that took the good jobs, so the teams only had crap stuff to work on.

and you're right, it depends on the ego you're working under.

Scamp said...

I agree with you, 2.03 - in fact I only left that point out for reasons of space. A good CD should occasionally take on the stinkers himself. But never the plums.

Roy said...

Brilliant. An absolute truth. If only it were a reality.

Jack Russell said...

You speak a lot of sense young scamp.

S J said...

So true thanks Simon, this made me chuckle

Bongo said...

Unless the creative department is tiny!

Scamp said...

Yes to everyone who says "if the shop is tiny, the CD must write ads." And ideally they'll be good ones which will cause the shop to grow bigger...

Allan Stevenson said...

I'd just like to say that I love the pictures you choose to accompany your posts, Simon. Top notch.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I agree. If your agency employs someone who has historically been very good at something, I think they should be allowed to do that thing. Hopefully they're also very good at getting others to do that thing and they can multiply their impact.

Maybe there's a short term/long term version of this same argument: short term, the CD does whatever it takes to produce the best possible work. Long term, he or she grows a department that's just as good and talented.

Anonymous said...

True in a mid/large agency

@phergd said...

I had a client who said "If you want to write ads, be a writer. If you want to make things better; inspire people; make sure they have everything they need to be great, be a CD".

I think it sums up the position brilliantly. Obviously there are times when you may need to, but when you're a CD, you're not being paid to write anymore. It's like the MD who started in the mailroom walking around delivering the mail, it wouldn't happen because it's not their job anymore. They're there to manage.

I think it was Steve Hayden or Hegarty or someone very clever who said "They don't take the best novelist and put them in charge of all the other novelists". Only we do that and that's why so many CDs can't manage people at all.

Anonymous said...

Dunno. Sounds a bit like the AE who once insisted to me that creatives shouldn't be CDs, account service people should because they're better at admin and know better what is needed. That was crap, and I suspect this may be as well. If someone is so egomaniacal they want all the credit all the time, they shouldn't have the gig.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, when it comes to a CD's own piece of business. But you don't want to stop your most talented creatives from writing on anything. I think the best CDs will be eager and have no issue with writing in to one of their peers on occasion, on a different piece of agency business.

Scamp said...

Very true. That worked well when I was at DDB London. In some agencies the CD's are a bit sniffy about working in to each other. Or simply too busy...