Friday, 21 November 2008

My two cents on the credit crunch and the role for creative companies

At this year's Olympics, Usain Bolt blew away the competition and became the fastest man on earth. Michael Phelps became the most successful Olympian of all time. Apart from being the quickest in their disciplines, what do these two athletes have in common? They're different, they're extraordinary, Usain Bolt is 6ft 5ins, dwarfing most stocky powerhouse sprinters. Michael Phelps has size 14 feet, his arm span is disproportionately large. In short, they're completely adapted to what they're doing. That's all well and good, but how does this relate to marketing....?

In the wake of the announcement by Martin Sorrell I read yesterday saying that there are planned redundancies for WPP in the UK and US in 2009. It's often been said that in recessions, the more creative advertising ideas get relegated for more solid proven money drivers. But I've been thinking that this time, it's going to be the agencies that are nimble, reactive and quick on their feet and the ones that can prove that they can lead the field in terms of innovation that will succeed.

When massive Comms groups like WPP announce that there are recruitment freezes, that restricts the extent to which the operating companies can manouevre themselves. When client budget belts are tightening and when they need to grab market share with quick, headline grabbing, innovative campaigns, I reckon small, independent agencies are better placed to do this. These are the companies that don't have to abide by recruitment freezes and can make audacious pitches for client business against larger agencies, in the knowledge that those larger agencies may be struggling for resource. With the staff turnover in some large media and creative agencies so high and their lack of ability to hire new people to replace those leaving, surely it won't be long before large clients start to notice a drop in service levels?

Along with this uncertainty comes the possibility that talent, trained in the big agencies, will go with these clients to smaller agencies, looking for more creative roles and higher salaries.

A company like Ideo, while not being a media or ad agency, by being renowned for it's innovation capabilities is gaining media coverage and paper headlines. In the Guardian recently, Mat Hunter, partner at Ideo is quoted as saying that in sluggish times "you have to respond to rapidly changing consumer sentiment and this should prompt rapid innovation". It's this innovation that will make brands stand out and steal a march on their competition.

Brands like Innocent, have taken this to heart, launching new products when traditional thinking would dictate that high end, premium products like theirs would suffer in a recession. It's their guess that people still think good, healthy food is worth paying that bit extra for. So they've launched Veg Pots, find more here - they look pretty tasty!

It's these companies, the Usains and Michaels of their field, that will break records and post their personal bests over the next few years.

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