Are we on the same wavelength?

Paul explores the age-old battle of Client vs Creative

Last week I had the honour of presenting a session at the Radio Academy Arias Awards ‘Segue’ session – a series of talks aimed at radio folk, covering a multitude of useful topics.

My chosen subject was ‘Inside The Mind Of A Radio Creative – What Every Client NEEDS to Know…’

It started as a light-hearted look at how the egos and insecurities of most copywriters develop, and why clients should make allowances for them to get the best radio commercials. As I worked on the presentation, the actual real-life issues around the way clients interact with creatives seemed to reveal a much darker and more serious problem we all experience if we’re not careful.

Without re-hashing the whole (excellent!) talk, what we face is a daily battle between often conflicting agendas. The creative wants to produce great work that shows off their unique talents, and the client wants great results – however they decide to measure them.

Both parties generally accept all the glory when it all goes right – but neither side accepts any responsibility when it doesn’t. It’s always somebody else’s fault when a campaign doesn’t deliver; the station choice, the schedule, the offer, the focus group, BREXIT, leaves on the line – I’ve even heard listeners being blamed for not being sophisticated enough! Seriously, when did you last hear a copywriter put his hand up and say, ‘Well actually, I didn’t make a very good job of your commercial’

But the real blame lies in the process – and every process can be improved.

If we start from the point that everyone involved in an advertising campaign is accountable, and every action will affect the finished result – the Creatives might learn that they have a responsibility to work from a detailed brief based on close questioning of all the facts. They could also figure out that while the Client has all the answers – they probably haven’t considered all the questions. Why should they?

Conversely, when a Client has gone through the process of agreeing on a brief, it’s then their duty to make sure that any creative ideas they’re presented with correctly answer it. I have seen so many Clients change, justify or completely throw out a brief because they have been seduced by a nice glittery ad with their name on it.

But the hardest battle of all is the fight we have with our egos. Nobody likes to be told they’re wrong or misguided, and they like to admit it even less. But if we are to engage in a more effective collaborative process, the Client and the Creative have to find a way of working that keeps their egos in check until they’re really needed.

A lot of this stuff is tackled in a great book called Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. It shows that ANYTHING can be improved by getting the process right, and creating an environment of collaboration and success – not self-interest and failure.

Paul Carter