Over the last few years there have been quite a few agencies that have operated for a while without an overall CD.
We’ve had agencies that have appointed a whole bunch of under-partners while waiting for an ECD, agencies that have spent a very long time without an ECD before finally appointing one, and agencies that have lost their ECD and just not bothered replacing him.
Call me old fashioned but I was brought up to think that an overall CD was essential to the smooth running of an advertising agency. Not only do I discover that this view is hopelessly outdated, I also find myself having to admit that in some agencies (shit ones) it’s wrong.
From small independents to massive multinationals, ad agencies of all shapes and sizes can plod along for years without an official ECD to shape, marshall and improve the creative output. The department can apparently cope without a central figurehead, clients don’t really give a monkeys whether or not the CD-type is available for a chat and agency management seem to organise and enjoy lots of big important meetings without him or her.
So why is this the case, and what does it mean?
Well, I’ve written many times about the demise of creativity and its reduced importance in the current world of advertising, so I suppose the lack of perceived CD importance is just another symptom of that. I would also guess that the non-CD parts of an agency’s management actually quite like taking the creative reins. It gives them delightful little stirrings in their downstairs portions because they find themselves at the business end of the creative process, yaying and naying the scamps and scripts of those creative johnnies who get to come to work in jeans and trainers. They might also have been inspired by the many agencies who have managed perfectly well without that guy who demands £350k a year, after all, if TBWA and Lowe could manage with caretakers for a while, why not Ogilvy?
And what does it mean?
In my opinion, very little. I’ll say again that it shows a stunning lack of respect for the power and quality of the creative output, but that seems to matter very little these days. I don’t think you need a very good, expensive CD to make work 5/10 instead of 4/10, and that’s the kind of standard that most clients currently seem to be happy with. Then again, in the end, these agencies do end up hiring an ECD eventually, so I suppose there isn’t an industry-wide feeling that the job is entirely superfluous. Let’s give the non-CD agencies the benefit of the doubt and say that they were CD-less for a while because they simply did not want to rush into making such an important hiring decision (the alternative, that no decent ECD would touch their job with a bargepole because they couldn’t pay a decent salary and had a truly shitty bunch of accounts, is too painful to contemplate).
I heard of an agency a few years ago that was permanent ECD-less and was told that upper management were giving constant assurances that the hunt was on for a new one. Many great names were mentioned, imminent arrival dates were rumoured and PR releases to Campaign were duly prepared.
But days, then weeks, then months passed, and no appointment was made.
Then the other rumours started: the agency couldn’t afford the marquee name they wanted; the loss of all decent accounts meant the job was not tempting the candidates the agency felt it deserved; the management were a bunch of arse-brained losers who couldn’t tempt a doberman to a cats home.
In the end, no appointment was made, no work was made for several months, the agency carried on in an utterly mediocre fashion and the world kept turning.
Around a year later, an ECD was acquired.
Within a few months he had left.
The agency is again without a permanent ECD, but I hear they’re not really in any hurry to find one.
Their work is still shit.
And no one in charge gives a fuck.