Magazine article Marketing

Opinion

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion

Article excerpt

Advertising agencies in the habit of 'curating' ideas rather than creating them run the risk of doing themselves out of a job.

Advertising agencies like to celebrate the creativity that defines them. It is why clients commit time and money, and often overcome difficulties, to work with them. It is the bit, according to the industry mantra, that clients cannot do for themselves.

Yet many agency teams are not so much creators as curators, seeking out ready-made ideas and content to appropriate for their clients' brands, often to the considerable irritation of the true originators.

The practice is not new. You can still feel the wrath of the 80s video director who accused 'so-called creative teams' of 'ripping off pop videos frame-for-frame'. More recently, the accusation of plagiarism has been levelled by artists and directors at big, award-winning campaigns for Honda, Guinness, Olympus and Aero (see 30 seconds, right).

As with so much in commercial life, digital connectivity has not created a behaviour, but has served as an accelerator.

Today, teams are spared the effort of the trip to the obscure art dealership or cult-film cinema to get their hands on promising material; they can just sit back and spin through YouTube.

Since this can be easily done with or without a specific brief in mind, agency teams around the world are sitting on film clips, images, techniques and characters, just waiting for the right brands to append them to. It didn't take long for Fenton to show up in an ad.

Agency curating brings into view the informal and utterly lopsided adbiz code on what is and what is not OK to plunder. Be first to be influenced by a brilliant piece of original film, as Wieden & Kennedy was for its Honda 'cog' spot, and you can be feted with industry awards.

It is strictly taboo, however, to steal from another ad. Memories can be long and unforgiving on this one, aided by the quaint practice of preserving ancient commercial fragments - ads, in stout, hardback awards annuals.

Does any of this matter? Isn't success that is borrowed preferable to something less strong but original? Is agency curating defensible as long as the advertising works, and there is no IP infringement?

After all, 'sampling' is an established part of music culture, and the line between 'influence' and 'theft' has always been blurred; so perhaps the curator shortcut should not occupy too much worry time.

Nevertheless, two watchpoints spring to mind, one for either side of the client-agency divide. …

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