In this world of Executive Creative Directors, Chief Creative Officers, Creative Chairmen, Group Creative Directors etc, it can often be difficult to identify who is actually in charge. Who is responsible for the work that leaves your agency?
In a recent PR piece for a top ten, multi national Australian agency the list of credits for a TVC was as follows:
Agency Executive Producer
Senior Agency Producer TV
Agency Producer Digital
Executive Creative Director
Creative Directors (2)
Group Account Director
The Accounts Department must have been awash with billable head hours.
Advertising TV Scripts are funny things. They’re expected to be ‘creative’ and an effective business tool. Agencies should consistently deliver both. All clients want a return on their investment. Most clients get excited when their ads win awards, (even if they say they don’t).
These days however, you don’t have to search particularly hard to find an article heralding the demise of the agency business model, (whatever that is).
And if any proof were needed of the increasing deterioration of agency / client relationships, a recent story on mumbrella.com.au, exemplifies the current atmosphere of discontent.
“Ikon sues client for non-payment amid
counter claims of ‘dishonest conduct’ was the headline.”
Apparently legal action was filed by Ikon in the Supreme Court claiming the sum of $939,055,65 after their client Advangen failed to pay invoices for ‘services rendered’ in relation to an advertising campaign.
The client is cross claiming the legal action saying it will “vigorously defend” its position as Ikon, “failed to provide certain services at all, or adequately and engaged in “misleading and dishonest conduct” that has caused the company “loss and damage”.
I guess there is little chance of reconciliation.
Admittedly this is an extreme and at present, rare case but I suggest there are many clients who are less than happy with the services their agencies provide. And of course there are agencies that would love to resign certain pieces of business if only their masters and/or shareholders or overdrafts would allow them to.
So much of what happens between an agency and their clients is based on trust and goodwill as much as it is based on results.
This is never more evident than when a client is spending sometimes millions of dollars, (when you combine the production budget with the media spend) on what is essentially a piece of paper.
Here are a couple of things agencies might consider asking before they let a script out the door. (I am assuming it is on brief, on time and on budget even though these days, such basics are frequently forgotten.)
1: Will it actually fit in 30 seconds? So many scripts I see are over length. Why present something you can’t produce?
2: Is it the best you can do? Even a great script can be improved.
3: Are there any typos? (Happens all the time and it never fails to diminish the credibility of the work in the eyes of the people who you are asking to approve it.)
4: Is it the latest version? How embarrassing when the copywriter begins to read a script only to realise three shots in, it’s not the right one. (In a recent agency briefing to about 20 ‘A Team’ post-production people, a hapless creative gazed at the piece of paper in his hand and was then heard to mutter, “This would be a lot easier if I had the right fucking script.” He immediately followed his comment with a ‘death stare’ at his producer who helpfully added, “It’s not my fault”.)
5: Does it contain anything really stupid? A script was recently presented in a new business pitch for a very large retail account that recommended using an actor who was already on air fronting commercials for the potential clients main competitor.
6: How will social media react?
7: Is it derivative of something the client’s kids / competitors / disgruntled employees / bloggers might find on YouTube?
8: Does it infringe anyone’s Intellectual Property / Copyright? Not so long ago a script was presented, approved and partly produced in Australia before the London based, head office legal team had seen it. When they did they issued an immediate and rather harsh edict that the agency retrieve and destroy (at their cost) every trace of the commercial lest a famous Hollywood Studio get wind of it and sue their socks off.
9: Is it truthful? I don’t mean legally. Will who ever it is aimed at see it and think, “I get it, I like it, I’ll remember it until the next time I need / want to buy one?)
10: Is it funny. ‘Funny’ is a bit like sex in that it almost always sells and it’s a lot less contentious.
You might also consider:
A: In the pre production meeting have the copywriter or art director do more than simply read the director’s treatments (Usually with nothing remotely resembling passion) and then say, “Aw, we like this one”.
B: Be proactive. From time to time show your client a script/s they didn’t ask for. Even if it never gets produced, it’s worth the effort. When was the last time your agency did something proactive except talk about it?
Oh, and ideally there should be one person who has nerves of steel, impeccable style, vision, taste, originality and the luck of the Irish who will have the final say on what does and doesn’t leave the agency. It would also be good if they were independently wealthy.