Creative vs. Suits? Not anymore...

With increased partnership between clients & creative leaders, industry stalwarts share a perspective on the evolving role of a 'suit' in advtg

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Updated: Jun 7, 2013 8:21 PM
Creative vs. Suits? Not anymore...

Once upon a time, there was a link between the two Cs of the advertising industry – Creative and Client, which in turn impacted the third C – Consumers, in a positive manner; also, a time when there was no contention between the roles of a suit in advertising.
Almost four decades ago, some of the best minds in the country wanted to be in advertising, not marketing. Advertising was the most sought-after profession, unlike today when the industry is facing a constant drain of talent and more often than not, losing talent to the client side. “The debundling of advertising in the 1990s, wherein media agencies were separated from the ad agencies also led to creative guys taking charge, creative and clients started talking to each other and creative guys became far more important,” shared KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett India and Sub Continent.

The mid 1990s brought about a change in advertising with a distinct shift on language-centric advertising from purely English speaking advertising. This led to creative leaders such as Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi coming under the spotlight, a place which was earlier occupied by a suit from a B school.
Over the years, the interactions between clients and creatives have only seen an increase, leading to healthy partnerships. Today more and more clients are involving creative people in brand discussions and partnering with them in a fruitful manner.

“A decade ago, creative people just wanted to be creative. They were happy with what they were putting on table, but somewhere they felt that the suit wasn’t doing his job and started accompanying him. Parallel to this, clients must have felt the same too, as they never felt comfortable with creative guys before. But clients started accepting and in fact, insisted on creative presence. Subsequently, they saw some positive results during the course.”

“This is where the suit lost grip over client and creative, and as both Cs jammed well, it started showing results. Having said this, there was also a good bunch of suits – who still exists, as they are real thinkers and contributors, and they really contributed where both the Cs couldn't,” observed Santosh Padhi, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder, Taproot India.
The role and levels of creative and client interaction may differ for different agencies depending on the DNA of the agency as well as the nature of clients it handles. So, how does the partnership pan out for a suit in an agency in today’s times?

“What is clearly evident today is the vastly increased interactions between clients and creative. There is far lesser ‘suspicion’ between clients and creative when dealing with each other; and both today, more than ever before, are making an attempt to reach out to each other to communicate better. This can only be good for an agency’s end product. Agencies that are more aware will continuously strive to smartly leverage both, suits and creative for the client, so that the sum is greater than the parts; thereby; also making accountability and deliveries from both very clear to each,” said Joseph George, CEO, Lowe Lintas and Partners.

Ideas are easy to find when there is a roadmap 
Has this increased involvement and partnership with the clients led to a far bigger role for creative leaders? Has this also led to an increase in the gap between the suits and creative?

“There is a gap between suit culture and creativity, but there is a positive change happening. The first step of launching a brand or an idea can come from account management, strategy or planning or creativity – the coming together of these disciplines, in my mind and my experience, is the best option. From a client perspective, ideas without strategy become very short-term and tactical,” said JWT South Asia CEO Colvyn Harris.

Looking at the bigger picture...for large brands across categories – from automotive to FMCG – strategy and planning remain integral when it comes to connecting with a diverse and complex market such as India. Brands undoubtedly need a clear roadmap, which can drive every town of India.

“Brands are built on ambition; nobody wants to build a brand in just one city. For this, you have to get granular and need a great strategy. Ideas are easier to find when you have a road map or a vision of where you want to go,” added Harris.

For ad guru and Executive Chairman and CEO India and President South Asia, McCann Worldgroup Prasoon Joshi it is all about an equal partnership in the world of advertising; “I don’t like the word suit, it is no longer a harmless word; it has now become a very loaded word and a few people have become condescending and very judgemental towards suits. There are two kinds of people who work in advertising – either you are an advertising professional or you are not an advertising professional. I crack the best of my ideas with the people you call ‘suits’. If the client has come to me, I have to give him a solution. It doesn’t matter if I am a suit or a creative person. I have to give a communication solution for his brand. I do not see these functions separately. The so called ‘suits’ are my partners,” he stated.

Driving ownership of the brand
While the role of creative is clearly defined, servicing owns the brand, shared Jishnu Sen, President and CEO, Grey India. Sen feels that servicing must own the engagement process and know more than anyone else how the consumer engages with the brand. Planning can get what is in the consumer’s head. “You should know what is happening in your category, if you don’t believe that and get excited about it, you will get marginalised. Saying ‘creative does not listen to my opinion’ does not help; earn the respect. I have been on the servicing side and seen fabulous creative – servicing relationships where they can’t live without each other; that is the way it should be. I think servicing has gotten lazy and got into inertia. They need to wake and get back into the process, otherwise they will be left behind. How do you earn respect? Go to briefing meetings. I don’t think creative wants to fly solo; they want servicing people they can respect,” concluded Sen.

As integration across touch-points is the mantra of advertising today. With a re-bundling of disciplines, now seems the best time for the quintessential suit to play a larger role than ever before.

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