The ad industry is in the throes of a brain-drain. Big agencies are haemorrhaging creative directors left, right and centre. They’re not leaving to write novels, become Buddhist monks, open organic cupcake outlets or any of the ‘other projects’ traditionally favoured by recovering ad folks. No, these guys are going to work for clients.
The advantages from a client’s point of view are easy to see. Why pay an agency to pay a top-flight creative, if you can hire him or her directly and use the money you save to buy, say, a small island in the Caribbean? If your business is online you probably already have a load of developers, coders and designers in the building. Add a CD et voila, you have everything an agency has, minus all those drug-addled TV producers. It’s a no-brainer, in fact the main reason that more clients haven’t pursued this strategy, up until now, is that it used to be impossible to persuade anyone good to go client-side. Suits, obviously, don’t count.
It was partly that the work was so bad. For decades ‘in-house’ was synonymous with ‘really crap’, as in: ‘did you see that layout, it looked sort of in-house?’ Sadly it isn’t a standard many creatives aspire to. Plus, there’s the boredom. Why would anyone commit themselves to a monogamous relationship with a single client when an agency offers the thrill of continuous promiscuity? The chance to mess up a new brief every other week.
But times change. One of the inadvertent consequences of the web has been that agencies have come close to making things that consumers can actually use. Even if it’s only an iPhone app that allows you to tickle a tramp, it offers a level of engagement, a sort of dialogue, that makes a TV ad look as useful as blowing an air-horn in someone’s ear. This sense of usefulness is intoxicating. If you go to work for Google, or the government, there’s the possibility that you might make something people really want. Your air-horn blowing skills may even have a practical application. OK, you won’t work in an office with a fussball table but just imagine contributing something, something worthwhile, it’s oh, God I’m going to cry.
And perhaps it would make life easier. If clients are bastards, why not drastically reduce the number of bastards you have to deal with? It could be the perfect solution to all the modern creative’s problems. They get to write the headline, choose the photography, and supervise the edit. In fact, if you’re interested in making good advertising, you’ll probably have more power to do so as a client than as a CD. This is our chance to turn the tables. They’ve been trying to do our jobs for so long, isn’t it time we went after theirs?
‘Gordon Comstock’ tweets at @notvoodoo