Rory Sutherland roars like a lion. The Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy UK appears on Campaign’s podcast, wherein he pontificates at length about the agency business and how it has been boxed into a corner by clients and so-called partners who are anything but.
Sutherland argues for the power of creativity to change the score for brands. He suggests that ad men and women fight their way out of this problem. Therefore, the entire recording is an entertaining and educational listen.
The agency business has “painted itself into a corner” because it has allowed creativity to be associated primarily with “verbal or visual artistry” rather than a tool to solve business problems. “It is shameful the extent to which the industry has allowed itself to get painted into an artistic corner, where you just color in ’round the edges,” he says.
At 25-plus minutes into the show, Sutherland adds, “We need to not just talk to the Marketing Director, by the way. Because you don’t know the direction of travel that a solution takes. We need to experiment more, we need to imagine more, and we need to look at things in vastly different ways.”
Sutherland believes agencies need to promote creativity more aggressively. He argues the industry should be a major rival to consultancy firms like McKinsey and Deloitte, offering creative problem-solving applied to a wide gamut of business problems.
Significantly, he also throws media agencies and their friends in tech under the bus.
What the client might hear is that they (the creative team) are just a bunch of flaky bastards who wouldn’t know a spreadsheet if it mugged them. That’s probably what they hear from the word ‘creative’.
I think the media agencies in connivance with tech firms and have sold clients on the idea that creativity is a little bit of magic fairy dust which you add at the end. Or even worse still, it’s just content. For f—‘s sake.
It’s not just product or price, and it’s not just data that gets a brand across the finish line today. A modern brand either conveys its value far and wide in clear and compelling ways, or it continues to languish and pretend that creativity does not matter.
Sutherland does not suffer fools. If you’re the kind of creative working in advertising who consciously or unconsciously adds to the negative perception of creative people and the creative professions, you will be skewered. The same is true for anyone else who seeks to diminish what Ogilvy and the entire industry add to clients’ bottom lines each year.