It is not art-it sells
A fair few years ago, I had the eye-opening pleasure of working alongside a big, swaggering London agency on a travel account. Specifics aren't needed, but suffice it to say the interests of the blue-chips they worked for revolved largely around selling bras and beer.
The client was all for integration before it became the token buzzword it is today. So she took the interesting step of sending her rostered agencies on a five day educational to Spain.
I was pretty chuffed at this. Actually, my joy could scarcely be contained. A week staying in a variety of one-star all-inclusives around Marbella (well, Benidorm actually) was preferable to a week in the studio churning copy. My enthusiasm, however, was not shared by my counterparts above the line.
The lucky 'golden boys' creative team from the heady heights of Soho had just returned from a week's shoot in South Africa with a director who normally only did feature films. The week before that they'd survived three days of heavy drinking with Ray Winstone, who was the hero of another campaign they'd magically conceived.
Boarding the plane I heard one of them utter, "God, I haven't done charter since I was a kid". Sunglasses remained firmly glued to both pairs of faces, despite it being a night flight. They ordered Champagne from the trolley dolly on expenses. I ordered a dumpy can of lager.
During the flight, I actually had to explain to them what direct marketing agencies did. Their response was: "What? Creative people actually have something to do with that shit you get sent?"
Although this was in the days before the big agency networks spotted the buck- making potential of below-the-line, some things still haven't changed. The worst excesses of big London advertising agencies have been tempered by 9/11 and a downturn, but too many creative departments still labour under the impression that they're part of Hollywood rather than tarts who get paid to sell baked beans. My belief is that it's fine if they want to delude themselves in this way, but not with clients' money.
At Prego, we have to justify every penny spent on executing a piece of communication, and rightly so. DM's historic obsession with accountability over creative integrity means that convincing someone to invest in elements often regarded as peripheral can be a fight.
And whilst it's hard to state categorically that spending five grand on one commissioned shot will lead to a better ROI than using a royalty free stock shot, clients who take the plunge more often than not have their trust repaid in spades.
Gradually, by stealth, this is how we are upping the creative stakes. We're proving that lovingly crafted work with an idea works better than a hastily assembled piece of junk. We're seeing clients who are genuinely proud of work they've commissioned. We're seeing results that speak for themselves.
I doubt I'll ever be on a Prego-funded excursion to the Mojave Desert with Mario Testino to shoot the front cover of an A5 insert. But I'll keep my sunglasses at the ready, just in case.