• Toronto Edition: In 20 Words or Less What's Your Creative Philosophy

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    In 20 words or less, what's your creative philosophy? What a great question that surely would generate some very creative responses. The SF Egotist first took to asking San Francisco based creatives that very question, the response was a wonderful glimpse into the thought process of some very talented creatives.

    We decided to take the very same question to Toronto creatives, in 20 words or less, what's your creative philosophy? What they shared gives us a look into the thought process of some extremely talented individuals. Take a look - tell us what you think and if you have a creative philosophy of your own share it in the comments.

    "Love what you sell.
    Then be honest with yourself about
    the human emotion why you love it (greed, lust, etc). "

    - Kevin Drew Davis
    Chief Creative Officer at DDB Canada
    ,


    "Don't be bitter.
    Be
    Better."
    - Andrew Simon
    Chief Creative Officer at Cundari Advertising


    "Exhaust all possibilities when you create and craft.
    There’s no worse feeling than, in hindsight,
    wishing you’d done things differently."

    - Allen Oke
    Executive Creative Director at TBWA\Toronto


    "Read everything. You'll find what you need when you need it.
    Travel everywhere.
    It's a great punch in the perspective."

    - Barb Williams R.G.D.
    Creative Director at RAPP Toronto


    "2 litres of magic,
    1 cup of cultural tension,
    1 cup execution."

    - Carlos Moreno
    SVP, Executive Creative Director at BBDO Toronto


    "Put energy into work that you believe in;
    find collaborators to vibe with,
    then believe in those people over product."

    - Kai Exos
    Executive Creative Director at SPOKE Agency


    “If you throw someone ten tennis balls,
    they’ll likely be able to catch only one.
    Throw one. Make it count.”

    - Fabio Orlando
    Chief Creative at Tag Idea Revolution


    "Spend weeks researching, experimenting,
    agonizing over an idea...
    then tell everyone it just popped into your head."

    - Jordan Foster
    Creative Director / Partner at six01


    "If the brief can't be
    Delivered in haiku form
    The suits must go back."
    - Suzanne Pope
    SVP, Creative Director at Sudler & Hennessey


    "Think with the mindset of a consumer
    and create
    with the imagination of a child."

    - Gary Watson
    Executive Creative Director at Capital C


    "Make sure your work has a pulse,
    and always remember,
    lions don't lose sleepover the opinions of sheep."

    - Anthony Wolch
    Executive Creative Director at Entrinsic


    "Simplify the complicated."
    - The Toronto Egotist

  • When Brand Building Becomes Personal

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    Jared Dunten is a lot of things. Copywriter. Artist. Father. Husband. Paraplegic. Fighter. That last one probably should have come first.

    In 2000, Jared dove into the Rio Grande, on the Texas/Mexico border. He woke up days later in a hospital 400 miles away. He’d broken his neck and injured his spinal cord.

    Doctors said he’d be lucky to breathe on his own again. Walking? Best to forget about that. But the doctors underestimated him.

    In the 13 years since the accident, Jared has been fighting his way back, starting with breathing on his own. Then months of rehabilitation. He returned to Austin, resumed his job as a copywriter at GSD&M. Became an accomplished painter using only his mouth. Got married. Had twins.

    All the while he’s been fighting paralysis, and fighting the notion that he and others with spinal chord injuries will never walk again.

    He’s become an advocate and activist by doing what he knows best – building brands – taking the skills he learned in the advertising world and applying them to his fight. He started with Will Walk www.willwalk.org, a foundation which uses art and film to create awareness about paralysis.

    And he’s not doing it alone. He’s pulling in people from other areas of the industry to help him create and promote this “brand.” The Butler Bros., Marty and Adam, are longtime friends of Jared. They both had large-agency gigs but left ten years ago to explore more innovative ways to tell brand stories. www.thebutlerbros.com

    They’ve applied their unique approach to a film that uses Jared’s story to encourage people to be more vocal about spinal injury research. See the trailer here: http://bbros.co/willwalk

  • How to Spend $275 Million in 48 Minutes: Three Super Bowl Ad Trends for 2013

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    Want to watch $275 Million get spent in 48 minutes? Just tune into CBS at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday to see one of America's greatest primetime displays of violence, debauchery and poor impulse control. And I'm not talking about the Super Bowl…

    I'm talking about the Super Bowl ads.

    In all seriousness, these days it's no surprise that independent research year after year continues to show that over half of U.S adult viewers plan to watch the Super Bowl as much, or more, for the ads than for the game itself. In fact, social listening measurement findings suggested that in 2012 64% of respondents said that half or more of their conversations online with respect to the Super Bowl were about the commercials themselves.

    With the average investment of $4 Million on the line for a 30-second spot, it's no wonder why the CMOs of many of these advertisers are looking to squeeze their investment for every penny.

    There are three standout trends that have continued to proliferate the Super Bowl ad space for the last several years (and by all accounts will continue even more in 2013).

    01. Online Ad Preview and Teasers

    Online Ad Previews and Teasers are becoming more of the norm. VW made the most famous splash last year with its Star Wars parodies that received over 56 Million hits after allwas said and done, largely in part to the pre-release of the spotson YouTube.

    This year's early winner goes to the Kate Upton Mercedes spot, which in one week gained over 5 Million views (and counting).

    Humbling news as, by this author's account, this is one of the more ridiculously off-brand spots I've ever seen. Given the fact that the CLA won't even be available for the next 7 months, the brand needs lasting impression and awareness. Regardless of the substance, it's clear that Mercedes knows the value of online traction and will do whatever it takes, no matter how low-brow, to get an early lead among its rivals.

    Regarding the idea of Super Bowl teasers, the concept is simple,but the debate still rages on about whether or not the big reveal should be saved for the big game. While we don't promote a "one size fits all" approach to advertising, and I'm sure there are errors to the rule, it's hard to argue with the facts. Mashable reports, "According to YouTube's research, ads that ran online before the Super Bowl last year got 9 Million views, on average. Those that waited? 1.3 Million." With, on average, three times as many views online over broadcast, many could argue that the real winner in all of this is actually YouTube.

    02. Ads for Social Democracy

    Ads by social democracy are becoming more common in 2013. While Doritos pioneered the concept with their user-generated ads in the past few years, this year we are seeing a greater variety of the concept. For instance, one of the biggest brands in the world, Budweiser, has finally launched a Twitter account in its name. The brand, which had a little more than 600 followers Monday morning, is using the account to promote its upcoming Super Bowl ad, which will feature a Clydesdale foal via their Twitter hashtag campaign. Pepsi is also using their site and Twitterto recruit some of their fans to strike a pose with their can before their half-time show.

    But, the big pre-game winners in 2013 seem to be the "choose your own adventure" style ads from Audi and Coke. In what Audi says is a Super Bowl first, they recorded separate endings for their "Prom Night"commercial, and are compiling social votes where the audience chooses the ending. Coke created cokechase.comto tease their spots by highlighting three different sets of teams who are all racing to win a giant coke in the desert. The team with the most votes online will get their spot aired right after the game.

    Coke_SuperBowl

    03. Second Screen

    This year, more viewers than ever will be watching on a second screen. Now in real-time, technology allows brands to engage with the viewing public on their mobile phone or tablet during the event. For instance, Yahoo's Into_Now pioneered app technology that augments the second screen experience by using the unique audio digital signature in a television show topickup, and serve up, content directly related to that show. CBS estimates ad revenue alone from their second screen engagement to be between $10-$12 Million. Being able to interact with stats,player bios, team formations, highlights and social aspects is an essential part of any second screen approach for the sports enthusiast.

    Regardless of all of the hype, a few certainties remain. The Super Bowl represents one of the highest risk: reward ratios in advertising. Because of this, marketers are getting smarter by using not only the right tools, but also the right content to get the consumer's attention. Disintermediation is taking effect and the consumer is finally starting to see large-scale control of and connection with their favorite brands. As our society gets more social and mobile, so does the advertising.

    Needless to say, as an advertiser, I am thankful for the Super Bowl. If not for any other time during the year - the Super Bowl gives us an annual magnified window into the progress of advertising. With so much attention to the commercials, it almost makes me feel sorry for the guys on the field.

    Almost.

    Originally posted on the Rodgers Townsend blog.

  • The School of Life.

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    Yesterday a reader asked us "how do you get into advertising?", our knee jerk reaction was to ship them off to the nearest ad school for a year or so.

    Then they told us more about their experiences to date and what a fascinating life they had lived. And as all of us forget from time to time, education is just a base foundation, life is what moulds you into an interesting creative person, ultimately making you more employable than the next guy or gal.

    This trending video from Mondo Endruo below seemed an appropriate fit for this editorial.

  • How to Survive in Advertising.

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    With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on us and Halloween just around the corner, thought this post would be appropriate for today...

    A lot of extremely credible, and no doubt, scientifically-tested rules that apply to horror movie survival can be used to ensure our own advertising industry longevity.

    I'll get back to that in a minute. First, we must be aware of another potentially scary situation…

    Years ago, a software program became capable of doing our job. Well, kind of. It produced mass quantities of ad ideas – all in blandly-adequate fashion. Acceptable creativity in ten seconds. About two coffee or martini sips worth of creative team time.

    Is creativity merely an algorithm? Can a machine do that thing that not even strategists can realistically explain with a set formulaic definition? I've actually seen it defined with whimsical hand movements placed mid-sentence.

    BETC Euro RSCG Worldwide, creators of the Creative Artificial Intelligence (CAI) technology, determined the software is only so clever. It's built with existing creative connections. Thankfully, enlightened humans are still superior. CAI was an experiment to demonstrate just that.

    ...But don't let your guard down quite yet. That's rule number one in advertising survival.

    1. The moment you get comfortable and complacent is the moment you become obsolete. Think about it. If your "character" is not contributing to the main plot, you are potential prey. (Especially if you go off on your own, mock someone on the team, or live in Maine.)

    2. The junior creatives are always right behind you. Always. They're hungry and they don't sleep. (Encourage them and let them inspire you. Seriously, you really don't want them turning on you.)

    3. Anything you think you know about advertising you probably don't. The rules are always changing. Go with it. Arm yourself with current knowledge and collaborate with other creatives. (Whatever you do, do not take that shortcut you heard about from one of the locals. It never ends well.)

    4. If an idea is dead, don't assume it's going to stay dead. An ambitious idea always has one last shot at reality. Theoretically, it could resurface at any time – with more power. Ideas love to avenge their own deaths. And, idea sequels are always in the works. (If the idea has access to a hockey mask get the hell out of there.)

    5. Do not try to unmask creativity. It shows up where it wants, when it wants. It's everywhere and nowhere. It laughs maniacally and probably hangs out in a sweet lair during it's downtime. Whatever it is, it's certainly not a single software program. (Sooner or later, in a shocking orchestra-crescendoed plot twist, you'll realize it was actually you all along.)

    Advertising enthusiast, idea-driven creative, relentless pursuer of insight Jennifer Hohn is a Senior Art Director at Vladimir Jones in Denver. This piece is cross-posted from Jennifer's blog.

  • It's called ‘Brief’ for a reason - by Rob Campbell

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    Creative briefs.

    The bane of my fucking life.

    I hate them. HATE THEM!

    But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.

    That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:

    + You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.

    + Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.

    + A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.

    + A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.

    + Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.

    Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.

    Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.

    1. WHAT IS THE GOAL

    What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.

    In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.

    2. WHAT IS THE BARRIER

    What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.

    It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.

    Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.

    Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.

    3. WHO DO WE NEED TO TALK TO, TO CHANGE THIS?

    Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?

    Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.

    Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.

    4. WHY WILL THEY CARE

    This is where blunt honesty is needed.

    You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.

    5. SO WHAT’S OUR STRATEGY?

    Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.

    ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.

    6. WHAT’S THE KEY POINT OF VIEW

    Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.

    It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.

    ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.

    Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________

    You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.

    Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.

    I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.

    If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.

    While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.

    That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.

    At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than 'marketing truth'] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.

    ----------
    By Robert Campbell, W+K's Asia Regional Head of Planning. Reposted with permission. Read his blog "The Musings of an Opinionated Sod"

  • How NBC’s digital ignorance screwed the Olympics for you.

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    Let’s be blunt: NBC shit the bed in their Olympic coverage.

    In this digital, social media age – when earthquakes are tweeted about before the Earth even finishes shaking – NBC made the unfathomable decision to broadcast events on tape delay in order to garner primetime ad dollars. Apparently NBC execs figured a few billion people could keep secrets until after dinner.

    The funny thing is, even if a few billion people weren’t on Facebook, Tweeting, texting and blogging, NBC’s strategy was so stupid, they spoiled their OWN results. While the broadcast was holding back the biggest events into the evening, at practically every other commercial break, they were encouraging viewers to check out additional content on their Olympic website which… wait for it… showed headlines of results they had yet to broadcast.

    Fail.

    Their Twitter and Facebook pages were no better. Before Americans got to see for themselves, the NBC Olympic Twitter stream had already blown the surprise of the Queen and James Bond parachuting into the arena.

    NBC, you do understand how the internet works, right? (Rhetorical.)

    But wait! There’s more! While you’re stuck trying to navigate a slow, horribly-designed, advertising-laden NBC site to see streaming events, 64 other countries get to view it live on YouTube for free. Afghanistan and Botswana get YouTube. You get McDonald’s ads to pay off NBC’s investment.

    Then, to top it off, when they rightfully got hammered for their ridiculous ad dollar grab in lieu of actual viewer experience, they responded by getting one harsh critic kicked off Twitter .

    Because, you know, THAT’S the way to respond to social media criticism. There’s no way that strategy could backfire.

    It sure seems like NBC’s entire strategy was “Let’s just say we’re streaming everything live!” without understanding how the viewer actually wants to engage with their content. Consumers have spent the past decade buying giant-ass HDTVs. Not everyone wants to be forced to their 10-inch iPad screen to watch events live. And certainly not everyone can stay completely away from Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the internet long enough not to ruin the surprise before primetime.

    Someday, the networks will come into the 21st century with a digital strategy that makes sense. Unfortunately for fans of the Olympics, that day isn’t in 2012.

  • 50 Shades of Bad Typography.

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    By Randall Erkelens

    When the world was introduced to desktop publishing thirty years ago, proper punctuation marks and kerning pairs were not brought to the party. Foot and inch marks were used instead, and they weren’t exactly the best stunt doubles. Today, I expected a more savvy designer pool with an arsenal of modern tools to rectify this problem. Nope.

    Then again, should I expect such a giant leap in only a quarter century? After all, 200 A.D. saw the rise of woodblock printing, a practice that ran the show until 1476 when the printing press was born. It was an era where typography used to be a specialized occupation filled by highly skilled artisans. It should be no different today.

    When your keyboard isn’t set up for smart quotes by using the foot and inch key, you can create the proper marks on an Apple keyboard by the following keystrokes. To kern using your keyboard, use Shift-Command combination with your bracket keys shown below.

    Tip: Use a serif font punctuation on san-serif design for more pronounced typographic presence. San-serif punctuation marks tend to be lifeless.

    Bad kerning (or tracking) is equally destroying design. It’s 2012. We should have enough computing power today to accurately plot any two letters together with good spacing between them. And yet, our design software still struggles with how to negotiate visually-appealing kerning pairs. I’ve noticed the worst infractions between upper and lower case letters. The Heinz example below has issues so obvious, it’s hard to imagine what designer, art director or creative director signed off on this. POUR ABLE MUST ARD. Really?

    Tip: It’s ok to have letters crash into each other to create correct letter spacing. The R and A in pourable need to touch due to the negative space created by the slant of the A. The B had to move to the left slightly too to close-up the white space.

    Dr. Pepper recently ran a national campaign with a blatant kerning error. That is, unless the 10 Bold T Asting Calories was the primary message.

    Now, look at this “Professional Sign’s & Lettering” company mark (of all businesses). Yes, they did use the proper apostrophe over inch mark, even though it’s still grammatically off since chances are unlikely the company is owned by some guy named Sign. But all the points they scored were lost when they left a gaping hole between the n and s. But we can give extra credit for the use of Brush Script.

    Tip: Reduce the size of your apostrophe and lower its relative position to characters in the word. This gives it a better lockup in the word. You don’t have to accept where your design program plots your punctuation.

    If I had to just kern one thing on any piece of creative, I’d spend extra time with your headline—especially if your layout is type and/or copy driven. Because when your all-type headline layout looks good, it is your visual. Treat it that way.

    Good typography isn’t always about where the computer places your 26 characters. It’s about how it looks, flows and feels to the reader. And that takes effort. Effort takes time. If you don’t have time for good typography, another line of work might be in order. Goat herding, perhaps?

    Randall Erkelens is a managing partner and creative rebel at Philosophy Communication, a Denver marketing and public relations firm.

  • Marketing on Fire. Wish We Were There.

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    The inspiration to make something culturally and psychologically strong enough exists when you get back to what blew your mind.

    For just a moment, you’re a kid in 1970s suburban Los Angeles, ok? Pedal your bicycle to the big Topanga Canyon Boulevard record store. See what I saw: an epic, billboard-sized reprographic image of Pink Floyd’s album, Wish You Were Here, bolted to the side of the record emporium and taking up huge amounts of sky. Big record company marketing budgets could afford to blow a lot of minds in those days.

    It was a mysteriously huge, Godzilla-sized piece of pop-surrealism that captured my imagination: A man on fire obliviously shakes hands with another suited man. It’s a random meeting in an abandoned soundstage backlot, like a dream in constant production. The handshake, a blithe and obligatory social grace, appears to hide the true burning intensity of ulterior motives. Or is that something about the fear of getting burned?

    This was all the proof I needed for what I had suspected in my young mind all along: People are weird. And deep and funny. And this was weird, deep, and funny marketing.

    I got lost in a new kind of alchemy, a mixture of what I both did and did not understand about this album cover. I actually liked not understanding the imagery. There’s power in mystery. Though I knew the marketing for this album was about dreams. Not Disney-esque life goal dreams, not those dreams, but the unsettling world of dreaming. And was this a billboard for an uncomfortable dream? Pink Floyd knew how to show you how dreams really feel. That’s what they do. Later, I’d find out that they made music, too.

    Something else that astounded me—although I didn’t know how to name what it was in my monosyllabic, child mind. I can find the word now. The imagery was alluringly unwholesome.

    Unwholesome? Yes. Every bit of product marketing I had ever seen in my limited time on earth seemed to dance a giddy dance of the effusive, wholesome-hypnotic, the good—and good for you—wash of the brain. Secret ingredient: sugar. (Or, substitute the word, trustworthiness).

    This album cover on the other hand, was marketing that used dream language to call no bullshit, and for me, great marketing began with that album cover.

    Eventually, I saw how this imagery shared the same surreal power of the Buddhist monks who had self-immolated in protest of the Vietnam War. Add the imagery of Rene Magritte’s Victorian men floating in the sky, perhaps. That was the era. The era of the inner mind meets social upheaval.

    Artwork for Wish You Were Here had a power that purposely reached for what was wrong and yet beautiful about the world.

    Like most album covers produced during that slim psychedelic and post psychedelic creative era, meaning and hidden meaning trumped safeness, and it’s difficult to not regard album artwork created of that ilk as a true slice of cultural honesty through the language of symbolic imagery and playfulness.

    Chances are, like me, you’d recall the marketing you probably don’t regard as actual marketing, but as something meaningful enough to feel and recall on a deeper level.

    That might require you going back in time. When you were a kid. When you were raw-minded. Re-experience what affected you, the unspeakably good montage intro or trailer to a film, the world of colors in the Maoist propaganda poster you saw on Canal Street in NYC, an album cover you forgot you loved, a commercial that rocked your world, a PSA that pulled like a maddened emotion, desperate to free itself from the leash of the everyday.

    That’s where the inspiration to make something culturally and psychologically strong enough exists, because it’s still living psychologically and culturally in your mind. That is, if you believe that marketing is actually part art, part storytelling, part psychological event, and is powerful enough to act as a sociological medium that does something amazing.

    1975, Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd.
    Album Art by the amazing agency, Hipgnosis.

    Joseph Coplans is owner of Denver's Ink Stain Inc, a strategic messaging firm in Denver.

  • How to Outrun the Inevitable.

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    There are a lot of agencies out there.

    In China alone, there’s said to be tens of thousands.

    TENS OF THOUSANDS!!!

    However amongst all those – not in China, but generally – there’s a few that have a ‘global’ name.

    Traditionally, they fall into 2 camps:

    Those who are living off their legacy and those creating it.

    Yes, that’s harsh – and there’s a whole host of reasons for it – but that’s pretty much how it feels.

    Of course, these two states are in a constant state of motion … one good campaign can lift an agency from the past to the present and vice versa … however the agencies that tend to have the greatest momentum are the ones that seemingly are continuously creating their legacy rather than riding on their past.

    Now in no way am I suggesting an agency purposefully ‘takes a back seat’ – there are many reasons why that can happen – however the point of this post is that as much as there are many agencies out there who are grabbing a bunch of the headlines right now, there’s 2 that are seemingly always at the forefront of commercial creativity.

    BBH and W+K

    Now without doubt there are some fundamental differences between the 2 companies – some good, some not so good – however the thing I find fascinating are their commonalities, of which a number of them, I believe, have directly enabled them to succeed while others have fallen.

    I should point out that what I’m about to write is my perception.

    The fact is I’ve never worked at BBH and while I know many of the guys there very well – I am still basing my views on observation and here-say.

    And as for W+K. Well while I have had the pleasure of meeting Dan and his senior management team, we’ve not really talked about this sort of thing … most of the time I’m getting bollocked for something.

    But that aside, here are 5 things that have made these agencies so creatively influential for so long.

    1. Consistent Management.

    The guys who run both these agencies have been at these agencies a long time.

    Better yet, they are the people who founded these agencies – so they have a vested interest in maintaining the culture of the place rather than just go after the profit, regardless of the implication.

    That said, they are constantly introducing new people into positions of influence and power.

    Younger people. Talented people.

    People who bring new perspectives and thinking to the table so while the principals of the company will stay the same, the expression of it is at the forefront of the times.

    2. Control, Not Controlled.

    In short, when you own your company rather than a holding company with masses of shareholders, you can control how your company grows and where your company goes.

    Basically, control means you can focus on the longer-term, bigger play rather than purely focusing on hitting the next quarterly target.

    It’s probably the best ad for communism you could have, ha.

    3. A Willingness To Fail.

    Both agencies try stuff.

    Better yet, the want to try stuff.

    There is a reluctance to rest on their laurels.

    This isn’t just because they believe to stick with what you know is the surest way to future failure, but because they are adventurous by nature and they believe great things happen from experimentation, even if on first impressions, the result is not quite what they hoped.

    They also put their money where their mouth is.

    They don’t expect clients to fund their adventures into the unknown, they’ll pay for it … be it in the activities they do or the people they hire.

    For both, failure is NOT trying stuff.

    4. Culture, Not Function

    When I first joined W+K, people talked about it’s unique culture.

    To be honest, I’ve heard this sort of thing before and almost always it’s turned into a crock of shit … because the culture that was there was because of the people in the place rather than the company.

    But in W+K and BBH’s case, I believe it’s true.

    Sure, the people that work there enhance and develop that culture, but there’s a strong philosophical view that permeates every element of both companies.

    It’s not about the press releases or the credentials deck … it’s about their standards … their expectations … their beliefs.

    They actively encourage trying new things … exploring new approaches … not going for the lowest-common-denominator or the category convention … standing up for what they believe in …

    In short, it’s about filling their company with interesting and creative people who share their beliefs [even if they express it in radically different ways], rather than simply those who can perform a specific job function at the lowest price.

    5. Involvement, Not Observation.

    Northern wrote a blog post recently where he said he was convinced the reason older, senior people lose their dynamism and originality is because no one challenges them and they don’t get in enough situations to be told something they don’t know.

    Very true.

    However one thing I really like about W+K is that while the senior guys are ridiculously talented and smart and experienced … they welcome opinion, debate and challenge. From everyone. Literally everyone.

    I remember the first time I met Dan and John and had an ‘out of body experience’ where I saw myself telling, arguably 2 of the most respected ad guys in history a bunch of stuff I think we should be doing.

    OK, so Dan said, “you’re fired” … but he listened and that’s more than many would do.

    The other thing is they are all deeply involved in what’s going on.

    Not in the sense of dictating outcomes or decisions, but being part of the chaos – contributing, listening, exploring.

    Sure that doesn’t happen on every single piece of business on every single campaign, but you’d be amazed how knowledgable about what’s going on. Seriously, you just need 2 minutes in the company of Dan or John or Dave etc and you know that they are absolutely bursting with dynamism and originality, even though by the protocol adopted by many agencies, they should be put out to pasture by now.

    Why are they like this?

    Because they still care. I honestly think it’s that simple.

    They still want to learn. They still want to do stuff. They still want to push boundaries.

    It’s fantastic and I honestly believe that one of the reasons this is the case is because they seek out people they regard as talented and interesting … people who can push them … their colleagues … their clients … and their agency to a different place.

    Not being scared of change or youth or provocation shows people who are very confident with who they are … which for all the ego and posturing that goes on in this industry, is very rare indeed.

    Of course you might think this is all bollocks … and maybe it is, however I can tell you from my time at W+K and my relationship with BBH that I see all this time and time again.

    Sure it’s not always perfect, sure there have been some bad mistakes – but that aside – the fact they have been at the forefront of mass market commercial creativity means they must be doing something right … something few other companies have been able to pull off over 30 odd years which is why I honestly believe these are things we could all benefit from following or learning – whether we work in a company or want to start our own.

    Making money is not hard.

    Being the creative industry darling for a moment in time, is not out of the reach for all.

    However making money while sticking to your principals and being an acknowledged leader in [effective] creativity for 3 decades is, and that’s why W+K and BBH stand out from the crowd.

    While both agencies shun propriety processes in favour of being judged by what they do [rather than what they say they do] … the reality is you can’t ignore how their principals, philosophies and approach have directly contributed and impacted to the work that so many of us [general public, not just adland] hold in the highest esteem.

    Saying “it’s all about the work”, might make a nice headline that people can gravitate to, but a great creative legacy starts way before the brief lands on the table.

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    By Robert Campbell, W+K's Asia Regional Head of Planning. Reposted with permission. Read the original blog post here (and don't miss the delicious comments.)

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