Stefano Hatfield on Advertising

Two sides in this business don't talk enough. And that's my last word
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The Independent Online

THIS IS my last column in this slot. I find myself a touch busy all day, now editing thelondonpaper, News International's shiny new entrant into the London afternoon newspaper market, and Rupert Murdoch's first UK newspaper launch ever (no pressure!).

If there were two lessons about advertising that I've learned from the experience, they are these: First, the separation of creative and media is a disaster for advertising as a whole. It is a ticking time bomb. The two sides simply do not talk enough, let alone share information and knowledge. Each has their own agenda. Unless this changes, clients and media-owners will bypass all the politics and deal with each other directly.

Second, culture and creativity always wins over strategy - although a little strategy helps. So, Robert Campbell and Jim Kelly, George Michaelides and Graham Bednash, and MindShare's Andy Parr and Paul Thomas delivered on their reputations to come up with a launch campaign for us that reflected to both consumer and trade the culture and attitude of our new baby. It didn't need to restore my faith in the British ad industry, because I already had it.

* SO WHAT of the ad-world I've observed in the time I've spent in this slot? It's names that spring to mind first - such as David Abbott, Michael Baulk, Chris Powell and John Bartle, just some of the super A-list of British advertising who have retired over the past couple of years.

Of course, there remain brilliant agency managers on both sides of the Atlantic, and there's still the odd inspirational character - trouble is, they are actually regarded as odd - but at the risk of sounding like an old fart, there really are not people like Baulky and Bartle coming through the ranks.

How could there be? These people were all one-offs. The UK ad industry was lucky enough to contain a dozen or so of them at the same time. So it's worth cherishing John Hegarty, Robin Wight, Tim Delaney, Bill Muirhead and co. And, let's be honest, the London story of the past year is the return of Sir Frank Lowe with a vengeance. "Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in..."

* TOO MANY people in advertising think they are geniuses. The late John Webster actually was one. He was a one-off too: three decades of creative inspiration which became part of the fabric of growing up British. Webster's advertising charmed its way into our hearts and minds. Too much advertising lacks the balls to be charming. It wasn't just about the vast audiences and multiple opportunities to see of the mass TV audience era that made his work so memorably lasting. We all actually liked the stuff.

Chrissie Barker also died this past year. She was not an industry giant like Webster, but in her own way in her day as first, editor of Campaign, and then advertising columnist for the London Evening Standard, she was equally influential. She shared with Webster a passion for the business, and a belief that advertising could be a force for good. The wonderful Patricia Mann also died this month. She was one of the first women to reach a senior level in a UK ad agency, and as such her achievement - like that of Christine Walker in media agencies - should not be under-estimated.

* FROM Andrew Robertson to Mark Wnek, Nick Brien to Tim Mellors, the list of British talent at work in the US (mostly, but not exclusively, in New York) grows ever longer, notwithstanding the return of the likes of Michael Greenlees.

Six years after I moved to the US (10 years after I first thought of doing so) certain truths remain the same. Most will love it at first, pinching themselves daily that they are being paid over-handsomely to live in a giant movie set. Then, the reality of effecting change in the average Madison Avenue institution (never mind Minneapolis) will kick in. Tired of pushing a peanut up a hill through a mountain of cc-ed e-mails, many start missing fundamental British ad-industry traits, like the ability to have a glass of wine at lunchtime and not be reported to AA. Their wives start wilfully keeping their nails grubby in a show of defiance. And then, summer kicks in, the kids get three months vacation which you can spend by your own pool, and the myth of working harder over there is exploded as you leave work every Friday. Still, nobody cares about the creative work though - and whether Brits choose to stay beyond a year is based largely upon the size of their pay-packets in relation to their former belief that this mattered.

* GOOD LUCK to Nick Hurrell and Neil Dawson in their imaginatively named start-up: Hurrell and Dawson. One of the joys of commenting on the ad business in London is that there is an endless stream of new companies to write about. All start-ups, of course, believe to some degree that they are re-inventing the wheel. Most, in truth, may get as far as rearranging the spokes in different patterns. But even when you thought there was saturation from the Clemmow Hornby Inge and MCBDs of this world along comes a Beattie McGuinness Bungay to find its niche - in BMB's case, advertising UK-household-name brands.

At its heart the difference between New York and London advertising is that practitioners in New York know that they are really working for Wall Street. In London we believe we are working in a cottage industry. Hurrell's leap into the unknown after so many years in the bosom of the Saatchi brothers' family is therefore simultaneously both a surprise and no surprise . Long may such start-ups continue to follow the Red Brick Road.

* THE OLD order, where big and creative agencies like Saatchi, BMP, AMV BBDO and Lowe ruled the roost, is over. Fallon, CHI, MCBD, Wieden and Mother now own the creative positioning that was once shared with larger agencies. Having said that, the, er, more pragmatic-type agencies such as Grey, McCann and Publicis will continue to flourish. The others depend on how strong their networks are. It will be fascinating to see where the likes of BBH, WCRS and M&C Saatchi fit into this new world order. But agencies have an almost bottomless well of optimism. It is possibly the single most attractive thing about them - other than the in-house bars.

* LOOKING around and seeing Steve Henry, Nigel Long, Stephen Woodford and Amanda Walsh in new senior management roles, while Richard Hytner is promoted ever upwards and Gerry Moira rediscovers his mojo, there is cause for optimism that the anti-age-discrimination legislation being introduced has been taken to heart by the UK ad-industry in advance. It's also proof that nice guys and gals can get ahead in advertising.

* SOME predictions:

* Media and creative will continue to drift back together again with creative agencies hiring media planners and strategists. The industry definitely has to sort this out. Or it will continue to commit slow suicide.

* Advertising in other traditional media (not television, not yet) will become newly fashionable as an antidote to the clutter of web advertising.

* Garry Lace and Ben Langdon will be back in charge of an agency or two relatively soon. And they won't last.

* The Government will succeed in introducing a gradual ban on all manner of products under the guise of "advertising to children". This will be a disaster for the industry and marketers alike. Wake up, everybody.

* Every year British advertising will produce work that is breathtakingly brilliant, and manages to both capture the public's imagination and shift loads of product. For the year of this column that work was Fallon's Sony Bravia "balls" campaign. thelondonpaper newsroom is full of the bloody tellies now. We didn't even think of another brand at launch, largely because we didn't know of any other brands!

THANKS for reading, and enjoy Claire Beale in my place. She writes a damn fine column.

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