Steve Antoniewicz, managing director of the Recommended Agency Register, has a bee in his bonnet about creativity (or lack thereof). Here he expounds his thinking.
You could be forgiven for thinking this is a question about England's performance against France on Monday. It was after all a great delivery that secured them a point. But in fact it's about the way that clients buy agency services and what influences their buying decisions.
The thought first came from a conversation with the Communications Director of a big grocery brand. They supply product to the major multiple retailers and do a lot of private label business for one of the majors in particular (starts with T ends with o)
He told me that their recent business growth, (around 40% turnover increase in last 5 years) was largely down to that relationship.
From scratch, they built up a new distribution network to align with the needs of that customer and to ensure daily delivery of fresh produce.
He told me that their business is, in reality, no longer about their product but is about logistics. Of course product quality and service remain important, but most of all, it’s about speed to market.
This is an example, from the commodity world, of how delivery capability eventually became more important than the original product. And it had me thinking about agencies and how they grow with their customers.
Many of the global agency networks certainly grow their businesses in exactly the same way, by establishing new operations around their clients key markets.
The promise is still of a quality creative product and great agency thinking, but ultimately it becomes all about being there. And whether the agency can deliver a creative product consistently across multiple territories.
Many of the issues relating to the distribution of a creative product are exactly the same as our grocery brand supplying physical products to a retailer.:
- Can we deliver to all the client’s key markets?
- Is the quality consistent regardless of how far it's had to travel?
- Can we get our product to market when the client needs it?
- Can we remain profitable whilst investing in a new distribution network?
- Can our product help our customer sell more?
Of course I accept there are many differences between delivering creative services from a physical product. I've heard plenty of arguments suggesting that "creativity" is so complex and intangible it's just not like anything else. But in most cases I just don't think that's true, especially when the creative product is being implemented on a global scale. It then becomes very much like buying any other product or service.
So does the ability to deliver outweigh creative excellence, for clients looking to advertise in multiple markets? The answer undoubtedly is yes.
Just think about the last great creative application you saw as a proportion of all the other marketing messages you receive. You could say that for every campaign that is a Lionel Messi, there are ten James Milners.
So at the moment, most clients do seem to prioritise delivery over creativity. Why? perhaps because like football they feel it’s a % game. A system based on hard work and organisation has a greater chance of success than one built to accommodate creative flair.
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