Sunday, October 06, 2013

We All Think We're Driving The Bus

We all talk constantly about how advertising is a team effort, and it is. But I reckon everyone secretly thinks their own job is the most important.

Us creatives are perhaps the most openly arrogant in this regard. Bob Hoffman sums up our attitude on his blog The Ad Contrarian: "Creative people make the ads. Everyone else makes the arrangements."

You have to dig a bit harder to find the evidence that everyone else thinks they're driving the bus too. But it's there. 

Exhibit A. This quote from a Planner involved in the Old Spice campaign: "Our strategy  led to the inception of “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, a crusader against 'lady-scented body wash.'" (from Cannes effectiveness submission).

So the Planners thought it was down to them. Yes, maybe script-writing (and surely casting) played a part, but it was all driven by the strategy.

But wait. The media planner on the campaign says: "Our communications strategy played a huge role in enabling the success of “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like."(from Effies submission). So it was down to the comms planning.

While a client voice on marketing blog The Essential Orange reckons that "A well executed marketing strategy was key to the brand’s success." Yup. You could argue the clients are driving the bus, and we're just singing the songs as it drives along.

Then this. I read a quote from a project manager the other day: "Talented people make great advertising" - he hypermodestly excludes himself from the ranks of the talented - but then adds that "a good process helps those talented people make advertising profitably." In other words, if it wasn't for him the agency would go bust within weeks.

And I ran into a senior suit, who works for a fast-growing agency that has recently taken over a business-challenged competitor. First of all he sang the praises of the creatives at the company they'd taken over. But then he averred that the management had been poor, and there wasn't much point having creative talent if no one wanted to work with you. In other words, he was driving the bus. Without him stopping the bus at places where clients were waiting to board, and opening the doors for them, the creatives would be unemployed passengers.

Anyway, I'm not too sure what to do with this information. Obviously I still think it is we creatives who are driving the bus... which means that everyone else must be deluded. But I suppose I have to recognise the possibility that we creatives are deluded too.

So who in your opinion is driving the bus? Maybe it varies by agency, and by account.

Or maybe no one person is actually driving, but there's just a forest of hands pulling the wheel in different directions. Which is why the bus ends up taking a consensus route. Or sometimes, crashing.


Anonymous said...

Research is driving the bus these days...

JB said...

Research groups?

Darren said...

so freaking true and everyone has a different route they want to drive too.

Adam said...

It's not who is driving the bus. The actual person shouldnt matter - the question is 'what's' driving the bus. Is it creativity, efficiency, planning etc.

Everyone knows said...

It's the creative secretary who's at the wheel.

Gavin said...

Isn't it a bus that has drivers in rotation? The process of taking anything to market is about passing the baton at key points.

Everyone involved in getting something to market feels some ownership, which is natural, but the reality is without everyone involed nothing happens.

Jossy said...

Everyone says they are driving the bus and I think everyone is. Everyone is fighting for the steering wheel, and whoever gets the firmest grip is where the Bus eventually goes.

The grip different departments have falls off at different times along the journey. Eventually you end up in a neighborhood that is a combination of all the different drivers but the person who drove the bus last knows the neighborhood best.

I.e. That's why some projects make a lot of money, and some win awards, and others were delivered on time.

CT said...

Bus? I'm on a boat.

Beans said...

CT, is your boat sinking or speeding along with everyone battling for the wheel?

Daniel Muro said...

As I see it, now more than ever, we are the engines. We are being reduced to provide the power, the sheer force to go forward.

May we like it or not, others tend to steer the wheel, some beancounters pour the fuel, with a few luminaries we will have to deal about the route... etc.

In some exceptional cases we may see creatives have a go in every task. Even, do them all perfectly well (I'm not sure others could say that).

But nothing good ever came from too many hands steering at once.

This is and ego-business, but also a team-business. We all should know what are we in it for.

Sell! Sell! said...

Shit, it's a bus? I thought it was a plane.

Jon said...

Good post - I don't think the driver of the bus has much input as to what the route is, that'd be planned by whoever has the cash and funds the infrastructure.

For the record... you've also misquoted the Project Manager (cough - me - cough).

"Talented people make great Advertising.

A good process helps those talented people make MORE great Advertising, and MORE profitably."

... a good process also ensures attention to detail.

Scratched Record said...

Nuh!!! You've got it all wrong. Adland is like one of those tourist double decker buses. You know the ones, jump on jump off. The bus driver is the one who actually does the work for fuck all money and the tourists (planners, management - you get the idea) jump on for the joy ride. But if it rains or they simply don't like what they see, they just fuck off - leaving the bus driver on his own to finish the tour.

Oh Come On said...

Everyone knows it's traffic who drive the bus. And anyone who tells them they aren't will find themselves thrown off it pretty quick.

Jason said...

How about this:

Planners decide on the destination, and may even suggest directions to get there.

Creatives drive the bus to said destination, often by routes more interesting than the suggested or direct one. Sometimes they find a better destination.

Suits collect the bus fare.

Traffic ensure that the bus doesn't break down, and that the driver is sober enough to drive.

ann onymuss said...

take a taxi or ride a bicycle. that way one can avoid smelly people talking bollox.

Unknown said...

I'm jumping off the bus and hitch hiking, i'll prefer to take my chances out there

Unknown said...

Does it have to be a bus? I think if we replaced the bus with a helicopter it would synergise with the industry's aspirational high-end status.

Dan B said...

Isn't the important thing that everyone is on the same bus and happy on the destination in which it is heading? (even if that destination changes multiple times en-route).

The best work i have been involved in (i'm a planner) is collaboratively and so if one single person was driving the bus we probably would have ended up somewhere totally different (and maybe less interesting?).

So with the Old Spice example they are probably all right, to a degree, with the final result being the sum of the parts.

And whatever happens god help us all if research does ever truly drive the bus.

JB said...

Wait - are we still talking about advertising?