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Tuesday February 19, 2013

A worthwhile concession for wider adoption of process?

As a parents of five and six year old girls we soon figured out that to avoid a pitch battle every morning we should allow a degree of freedom over choices of clothes for that day. After some initial discussions to establish the difference between actual and ‘dressing up’ clothes (following some attempted school days dressed as medieval princesses) mine and my partner’s lives have been made much smoother (in the mornings anyway!). Weeks later, and with no kids in sight, we found ourselves having a heated argument over the colour of paint proposed for our floorboards – adult version of precisely the same thing? Both examples seem like pretty minor concessions looking back, but some degree of creative freedom is absolutely central to having a happy human – whatever age.

Time and time again marketing procurement find it challenging to effect changes in established local market relationships with creative agencies. What I have heard referred to as ‘maverick spend’ is obviously undesirable to those whose mandate is to reduce cost and increase transparency via centralisation (if we are talking about advertising production/process efficiency/asset management then some degree of centralisation is implicit). If all transactions and relationships remain local then how do you leverage your buying power and retain brand consistency whilst dropping spend? Tough ask.

As with all change management, advertisers have to prescribe a combination of carrot and stick – sun and wind. For a local marketer, they are paid to understand a) brand b) local consumer, and not necessarily in that order. They may appear myopic from a global perspective on one or the other BUT they are consistently delivering – doing their job. So if a creative relationship is long-held within a market or cluster does that mark it for removal and replacement? In today’s media mix some degree of creative freedom at a local level is essential. Too often we see ‘corporate’ overlapping the pursuit of efficacy and speed of local creative output with the need to negotiate agency fees and ending up addressing neither. If it is broken – fix it, don’t throw it away.

So the challenge facing advertisers is to drop spend whilst improving/retaining brand consistency. This is only possible if they manage to convince the local markets that the new process/storage/reporting software and centralised supplier can deliver and will make their job easier. Truth is that in many cases their jobs will get harder before they become easier; tough sell. Marketers are not children that want to dress up, or parents fighting over paint swatches, but they are humans that should be connected to their role and outcomes. By releasing local markets to retain the creative freedom of local relationships this is possible. It doesn’t mean that you cannot introduce phased centralised supply of other services/channel delivery in a collaborative way, which should be the trade-off. I have seen situations where a local agency has gained a regional profile and subsequently won more work by virtue of having a centralised versioning function that made their work visible across other markets. It’s not a panacea, just another possible approach and a grown up and balanced way forward rather than the unimaginative option of the naughty step (which doesn’t work when overused anyway - just ask a parent…) 

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