McCann’s Lachlan James: Creativity has become completely commoditised



Creativity has become “completely commoditised”, with the attitude of looking for an agency who “can do something faster and cheaper” creating an environment of mistrust amongst agencies, McCann Sydney senior planner Lachlan James said in a video hangout yesterday.

Responding to comments made in a previous hangout by 303Lowe’s Richard Morgan around clients taking advantage of agencies, James said creativity has become a numbers game.

“Creativity has become completely commoditised. It’s become a numbers game. It’s no longer looked at on the value its bringing, ROI modelling or effectiveness gets left to the wayside, it’s who can do something faster and cheaper,” he said.

“Ultimately it is the situation and we all have to deal with it and if thats the impetuous behind you creating better work at a better price I think that’s fantastic.

(James’ comments come 10 minutes into the hangout where he and Finucane discussed a collection of recent ads)

“When I was in the States recently you’d have big clients with a big agency roster with multiple retained relationships and they would just constantly create this bidding environment, same brief. It harbours distrust, it creates a real us and them mentality within the agency pool.”

James continued by saying it is primarily an issue in new business pitches, with agencies often sensing when a pitch is about costs as opposed to creativity.

“The unfortunate thing is, the example where I see it happening most is in new business situations, very often you get a sense that it is a costing exercise rather then a creative exercise,” he said.

“There’s lots of examples, even within the local industry, where it’s come out in the wash after a pitch that it was just a costing exercise, or we’re changing our creative or marketing decision and going with what  makes better economic sense or its a consolidation play.

“In a lot of cases when its a pitch situation the odds favour the incumbent, there’s a relationship there, they know the general parameters around budget where as the other contenders are feeling their way in the dark.

“If it is perceived to be a procurement pitch it is tough to motivate people because you get a sense its a numbers game not a how good is our work game,” he added.

James was joined on the hangout by Core creative partner and founder Christian Finucane who said payment for pitches can generate goodwill amongst agencies and clients.



“I’d rather get a fee up front to pay towards the pitch which we have had with some clients. I feel that’s a really good gesture to say we really believe in the three or four chosen,” Finucane said.

“It’s about trust. If they want to find a partner to work with them I don’t see why a client wouldn’t go through a process with a pitch doctor and get it down to three or four people and say we believe these are the best candidates and we want to encourage them to do the best work and help you grow our business. I don’t see how generosity can’t be repaid.”

James was in agreement, saying: “There has to be a point to where you understand procurement will play a part in that process, but it’s more important to elevate the marketing requirements first and foremost – we should create more value around creative and ideas if that’s what they’re buying.

“Do they want good work or do they want cheap work? Just creating a sense of that in a pitch environment, not only will it be better for us as agencies but I think they will get better work.”

Miranda Ward


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