The Intersection

I think in general the best advertising ideas come from the intersection of creativity and commerce.

That means someone who has pressing commercial needs, and someone else who wants to use creativity to help solve the problem, be that in a piece of communication that means something to people, or some other idea.

It's that meeting of different minds that I think leads to interesting work – the commercial imperative on the creative, and the creative challenge to the business. That meeting of minds can be exciting, it can be tempestuous, and can be challenging. But it should lead to a better solution than if either of the two parties had completely their own way.

I think this is why, when you hear about the stories behind great campaigns, there tends to be some personal relationship between the creative person and business person behind it – the boss of the client company, and the creative director or senior creative on the job actually talk to each other.

I think the way that agencies are set-up currently is getting in the way of allowing this to happen on most accounts. The production-line method of creating advertising, which almost all agencies now employ is, I think, the worst way of getting creative solutions. The meeting of minds is never really allowed to happen. The tension or clash is avoided at all costs.

I think this is because agencies are scared of their clients, and many clients seem to believe that everyone must agree with them or there's something wrong with the relationship – by the way, very few owners or CEOs seem to think like this, it's mainly marketing people. I've found that, in general, business founders, owners or CEOs enjoy being challenged.

What we saw happen with Pepsi last week I think is a twisted product of the lack of this kind of relationship, albeit not due to the usual agency or client problems. Here it seems the clients lacked the outside perspective of someone to reign them in or challenge what they wanted to do. But also, on top of that, it seems the people on the client side lacked the commercial imperative themselves, too. From reading quotes from the clients involved, it seems like they were off on some flight of fancy that wasn't rooted in the thing that they make and sell – a fizzy drink – but rather some terrible misunderstanding of their role in their customers' lives and the world. They were like the worst kind of creative, and allowed to go off and indulge themselves.

However, to see the agency world jump gleefully on this is quite unseemly – the Pepsi ad is truly awful, but really only degrees worse than recent agency-made efforts I could mention. I don't think it's that crazy for some clients to be exploring the idea of taking the advertising function in-house – but what is vital if they do, is that their own people are empowered to be as challenging as a creative agency should.

It's a people business, advertising. Putting the right people together and empowering them and listening to them and embracing any resultant tension or challenges will give you the best chance of a great outcome.

Happy trails.


  1. Totally agree.

    While Pepsi suffered from a lack of agency guidance, I shudder to think what (some) agencies would create with a lack of client guidance. The cynic in me thinks it wouldn't be all that different...

  2. On your point about CEOs etc liking to be challenged - I think to get to that point, you almost have to like being challenged. Or at least you have to be willing to put up with challenges to get the kind of results you want.

    Marketing people today seem to believe (or have been taught?) that business works on a fairly simple input/output basis. If I do X, I can expect to receive Y. Or if I spend X I should get x+5 as a return. Business owners would realise from experience that this is almost never the case.


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