Tuesday Mar 28

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Are creatives above the bottom line? AME Awards

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Issue #03 - Insight

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P
erhaps one of the more inspiring creative events of the year to date was the 2009 Asian Marketing Effectiveness awards held in Hong Kong. Conspicuous by their absence in droves, however, were any agency creatives.

Atifa Hargrave-Silk, Editor-in-Chief of Media wrote in her forward to AME: "This competition is about real results as past winners have demonstrated. But, importantly, it acknowledges the role of innovative strategy, as well as creative craftsmanship in achieving results and therefore unites creative with effectiveness."  The AME unquestionably united creative with effectiveness. It did not, however, unite creatives with effectiveness.

It didn't introduce them to some of the leading strategists, branding gurus and groundbreaking trends from across the world.  It couldn't, because they simply weren't there. You can't blame the event organiser for the lack of representatives from creative departments. So, is this a case of creatives being apathetic about the bottom line?

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We risked getting slapped for asking an audience question of a panel of leading lights, at least half of whom were global CEOs of the most high profile advertising and media agencies in the word, 'Where are all the creatives at this event? Aren't they after all the people that brought most of these winning ideas to life?'

Fearing a mass beating of a lone journalist - and lacking the protection of a well padded Armani suit - Agency.Asia qualified this, adding that being creative is not the exclusive domain of people in agency creative departments - but there was no denying that creatives were grossly underrepresented among all the agency and client-side delegates.

As part of our question, we also proffered to the panel that 99.9% of those present at AME were similarly absent from events such as Adfest, Spikes, AWARD and virtually every significant creative award in the world. Ironically, the question we posed was during the AME Debate, the overview of which was, "A crucial element in any client-agency relationship is the level of understanding of each others expectations, particularly at a time when every part of the business is under intense scrutiny. The challenge is managing creativity and risk within a marketing strategy to reap rewards." If we'd received a decent answer to that sticky question, we'd report it. We didn't.

How many 'creatives' did we see at the Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards? We talked to Dirk Eschenbacher from Tribal DDB, Sonal Dobral from Bates and Tay Shen Guan from Y&R.  That is it. How many fascinating people did we meet and how many blindsiding insights did we glean? Literally dozens. It was a particularly valuable - and fun - event.

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It strikes us that this would be an opportunity to promote a better understanding between clients and agencies that we must agree is often a principally distant relationship - with the creative departments in the antipodes.  It must be said that many agencies don't even foster decent relationships between 'suits' and 'creatives'.  So, here we have an industry boasting two - or three - fairly disparate groups working toward a common goal - but that have very little if anything in common.

As a brief aside, we have previously asked several Agency.Asia guests why it is that advertising is one of the least respected professions? Look at lawyers, doctors and accountants. Generally speaking, their clients don't habitually haggle with them and question their advice at every turn. Nor do they serially choose a new doctor every couple of years. You'll have to read the interviews to hear their responses, though none have argued with the gist of question.

Here was a conference that was brimming with some of the best marketing minds in the business, men and women that can craft a strategy to perfection and clearly have the smarts to head-up some of the world's most successful brands.

Atifa Hargrave-Silk posed this question in Media: "Have you created a winning campaign this year? The answer to that probably depends on how you rate your creative success. Is it about gaining market share for the client's brand? Taking home awards?  Or creating an ad that gets people thinking, 'wish I'd done that'? OK, so it's probably all of the above. But - whether or not you've judged an awards show - you'll know that, sadly, there are few campaigns out there that tick all of those boxes."

You'd have to question whether getting everybody together in a setting such as the Asian Marketing Effectiveness awards might just lead to better advertising all round.

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