Do ad agencies hog all the credit?

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An interesting article here about the much acclaimed ‘Voyeur’ work for HBO, created by BBDO, New York. While BBDO took home several metals and got all the headlines at Cannes 2008, the digital shop instrumental in executing the the campaign feels that they have not been given their due credit.

Michael Lebowitz, co-founder and CEO of Big Spaceship, the digital specialist behind ‘Voyuer’ criticized both BBDO and the awards system for not giving due credit to his firm for its role in a campaign that crossed from outdoor to digital to film. The article raises a fair question: do agencies share the limelight with co-creators of the award-winning work? Or are they right in believing that as creators of an idea (no matter who executes it) they deserve all the kudos. According to the above article, David Lubars, Creative Chief of BBDO said: On ‘Voyeur,’ BBDO thought of the idea, shot the idea, then brought in Big Spaceship to do what they do. They did a great job (and we’ve made every effort to acknowledge them).

I remember a few Ad Club awards in Mumbai where some agencies chose not to mention any names of individuals in the credits, but simply call it ‘XYZ agency team’. And some agencies put up the name of the Film Production House as part of the team that worked on a winning film. I haven’t been to an awards show in a while and don’t know what the practice is currently. But on the face of it, Big Spaceship’s grouse that the system in Cannes is not geared to acknowledge multiple ‘winners’ for the same award has some merit. Dig deeper and you have more questions:

– should the original creator of the idea get all the credit – at least more than those who helped execute it?
– if so, who is the ‘owner’ of an idea when collaboration is the name of the game today?
– who decides which ‘support’ function is important? If an ad calls for a unique style of illustration, calligraphy or digital retouch is it realistic to expect them to get equal credit as the original creators?

This ad won a Grand Prix last year. Shouldn’t the digital artist be rewarded?

When it comes to elaborate ambient or activation ideas, slick execution is important and the Activation agency has a critical role. But do we even know the names of promo agencies who were behind the Kurkure ‘fire’ idea?

I just have the questions, not the answers. Maybe award ceremonies should have a section on Crafts – like some film awards. They could then judge crafts like photography, digital retouching, illustration etc.

Even in this age of creating specialist units within an agency, we need the support of certain craftsmen outside the agency. As the Adage article concludes: “We are in a brave new world, a networked world, and you will never find a single agency that can handle all the various works of executions,” he said. “Anything that runs against innovation and collaboration succeeding should ultimately be choked out.”

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