UNTIL QUITE recently, five of the UK's biggest ad agencies had creative supremos who hailed from the ends of the earth: Dave Alberts at Grey; Matthew Bull at Lowe; Matt Eastwood at M&C Saatchi; Tony Granger at Saatchi & Saatchi (S&S) and Malcolm Poynton at Ogilvy. Alberts and Eastwood are Australians and Poynton's a Kiwi , while Bull and Granger come from South Africa. Why is it that an incredibly high percentage of Britain's leading ad agencies feel the need to go halfway around the world to find creative management? Particularly as advertising creativity is one of the few things at which England rules.
(When I say "rules", this is largely according to the admittedly childish measure of advertising awards, which has little bearing on much other than helping me make this point.)
Australian business (indeed, Australian life) is somehow more healthy and outdoorsy, more can-do and virile, than in the UK. Over there, charisma outranks correctness. Certainly, all of the guys in the list above who I've met - Alberts, Bull and Eastwood - are extremely charismatic. In new business pitches, all things being equal - and they usually are - charisma is priceless. English creatives are simply not inculcated with or promoted on the basis of such qualities. In UK advertising, client relations have always been jealously guarded by suits. The latter have stunted the career possibilities of generations of creatives by, shall we say, "protecting" them from clients.
Not only does this state of affairs not yield charismatic, creative leadership, equally importantly neither does it promote any business nous. For English creatives, the Holy Grail is winning awards. And if you're locked away crafting ads for the benefit of awards juries, the client's right and proper business issues - like hoping their brand/product might be recognisable - are non-issues: there's nothing an advertising awards jury likes less than a big logo or packshot. …