The results are in: The minimum expectation for displaying past agency work

The results are in from Mumbrella’s creative credits survey, following last week’s article on ad execs showing past work on their agency startup websites.

With 93 responses across agencyland, 29% believe the creative agency responsible for the campaign needs to accompany work on an agency’s website.

23% share the opinion that full campaign credits for each spot displayed beside the work.

18% thought none of the options presented were appropriate, that it isn’t acceptable to show past work, even with credits, while 17% said simply noting that the work was created at past agencies was sufficient.

Chris Howatson, who was one of several high-profile agency executives to strike out on their own in the past few years told Mumbrella that great work is the confluence of many factors: “the client’s belief in salience, the agency culture, the individuals involved, the production budget, the media budget, the time to make and orchestrate it and of course the wider cultural and category contexts”.

“The currency of our industry is the work. It’s how people (not just creatives, but clients, planners, producers and business management) are promoted and how agencies attract new clients (and retain existing ones).

The Howatson + Company website currently displays work created by the agency, and awards won by the agency since its inception at the start of 2021, with the showreel including work for clients Allianz, Belong, Qantas Loyalty, Petbarn and UNSW.

Howatson said on the issue of work representation, the work always belongs to the client and the agency it was created in, both at a legal IP level and “at an ethical level”.

“It doesn’t follow people to become a credential to a new agency or client – especially as an external credential. It’s always ok for people to share that they worked on a campaign in a private context (e.g. a pitch, or as reference to what they seek to achieve on a current project) but their role in the project and where it was made must be transparently disclosed.”

Howatson: ‘Work doesn’t follow people to become a credential to a new agency or client’

“Smart clients who seek distinctive creative will always look beyond the case study to understand who, how and when it was produced. And so brilliant people and teams will righty benefit from their reputation.”

Speaking on tomorrow’s episode of the Mumbrellacast, recently appointed chief creative officers at Dentsu Creative, Avish Gordhan and Mandie van der Merwe said its a topic that has had them talking across the past week.

“I’ve got a very straightforward version of this,” said Gordhan. “I think if you’re a startup, you need to prove that you have the capabilities to convince businesses that you can do the job. And for that to happen I think the individual work that’s been done by those people in the business needs to be celebrated.”

“However, it needs to be clearly defined that it’s not the work of the agency and I think that it’s a simple recognition that the people who work here are involved in it, but this is not the work of the company of whose website you visited.”

van der Merwe: ‘transparency levels the playing field’

Gordhan said this example disappears quite quickly “once you’re established” though, and that while there is a grace period where its an acceptable formula, “at a certain stage and scale, I don’t think that’s even a consideration”.

“I think you need to move away from that, but it’s just about recognising how new startups actually acquire business.”

van der Merwe said on the other hand it is equally important to shift the conversation toward back toward agencies, and how many people remain in said agencies when referencing famous work.

“I think there’s a larger conversation around credentials,” she said. “It’s certainly created some debate between Avish and myself because we have gone and worked at agencies because we thought ‘hey, that’s the kind of work that they make and then found that half of the people aren’t there anymore, which is very important also to know how many of the founding thinkers or the account strategy people that push that piece of work through is still at an agency when you’re going into a pitch.

“I think transparency is a great thing because it levels of playing field so that you really know who’s your people and what are they able to do, whether you’re a startup or whether you’re a biggie.”

Since Mumbrella’s article last week, Milk + Honey has updated its website, with a line under its showreel now states: “Some work included on this reel was created by Andy and Steve while running other agencies. Including: TBWA, Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, M&C Saatchi, DDB, JWT, Innocean.”

The website also now states the extensive awards section on its website is a “combined award tally of Andy’s and Steve’s careers”.

While there has been significant discussion on that previous post, other responses to the survey included that a minimum should be: “Clearly defining what role your agency played in it. If your agency didn’t exist, or didn’t participate – it’s fraud.”

“Individuals role on project, and agency where they worked during.”


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