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‘Madison Avenue romance’ around creativity holds ad industry back, according to R/GA and Facebook


By Katie McQuater | Magazine Editor

June 23, 2017 | 4 min read

Sentimentality towards creativity is hindering the advertising industry's progress, according to R/GA’s global chief creative officer Nick Law.

Madison Avenue

'Madison Avenue romance' hinders ad industry progress

Discussing the topic of agile creativity at a session during Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity earlier this week, Law said:

“There’s a romance in Madison Avenue around the industry that prevents it from stepping forward. This idea that we figured it all out in the creative revolution in the early 60s and that we are going to keep hammering that square peg into a round hole is absurd.”

He contrasted the viewpoint with that of Silicon Valley, which he described as being full of “raging optimists”.

“It’s almost cult-ish, but that’s going to push you forward better than this deep sense of sentimentality you get with advertising.”

Law was speaking on a panel moderated by The Drum’s US editor Doug Zanger at Facebook’s Beach during the Festival, alongside Kimberly Kadlec, senior vice-president of global marketing platforms at Visa, and Facebook’s head of Creative Shop and co-editor of The Drum’s Cannes issue, Mark D’Arcy.

D’Arcy said the ad agency world needs to challenge its long-held beliefs and biases, and urged the industry to think optimistically about its future.

“They’re belief systems that someone invented 70 years ago that we still hold to be true. You have to be able to challenge everything with optimism.”

By “fetishising originality”, the industry is failing to iterate, learn and build on previous successes, in D’Arcy’s view.

“One of the greatest frustration that I have with Cannes [Lions] or any awards scheme is that the best work is a rocket that goes up but we don’t deconstruct the rocket and [ask] what made that great, how do we make that the next thing we do on Monday morning?

“There’s no incremental lift in the total; there’s just a continual repetition of rockets and as an industry we have lost the ability to harness that, break down what made it good, make it the best practice and then build on top of it. We start every day with a clean sheet of paper.”

Discussing the tension between creativity and technology, Visa’s Kimberly Kadlec added that issues still stem from poor communication between teams.

“We still have a gap in the translation between creativity and technology. It’s uncomfortable because both sides of the equation don’t exactly understand what the other is trying to accomplish.

She cited a recent learning day with Visa’s IT team, which allowed its marketers to get a better grasp of priorities.

“Our priorities were totally opposite – no one understood why the priorities were what they were, or why it was important to marketers to get certain things done before others, and the marketers didn’t understand how hard it was to build. Having that conversation changed the game and now we’re aligned.”

Kadlec also said clients have a responsibility to look at how they compensate agencies in order to work differently, as current legacy processes are perpetuating old models.

“One of the things we don’t talk about his how we incentivise new models, so as a client how should we incentivise creatives to work differently? We’re making money, so we perpetuate an old model by the way in which we incentivise and compensate our partners and that I think needs to look different to get to a different outcome."

The Drum's Cannes issue, guest-edited by Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Nicola Mendelsohn and Mark D'Arcy, was launched this week during Cannes Lions.

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