Adland’s troops ready for action

Damian Hanley says the top agencies will always fight the good fight in creating ideas that sell. The best clients know that.

Well done soldier. You’ve made it this far.

All those who work in ad agencies, I salute you.

Look at you. You’re a marine. You can be dropped deep into any territory, undertake any mission and make your way out armed with nothing but a sheet of paper and pencil – and maybe a coffee. You can untie a strategic knot and create fire from a pile of damp research. You study the target, know its every move. Pass the buck? Not you. You do not talk about the work. You do not talk in theory. You do not sit in a flight simulator. You land the plane. Here is the idea. Don’t like it? Ok, here is another one. There is plenty of ammunition. Real ad people never quit. We do not stop at the third idea or even the tenth idea.

We stop at the best possible idea and most of the time we’re not even happy with that. There is no one tougher on agencies than we are on ourselves. There is a little voice inside our heads telling us nothing is good enough. That voice only keeps quiet momentarily during a brilliant sales result report and maybe the odd award ceremony.

Creatively-awarded campaigns are six times more efficient than non-awarded ones, the Gunne Report says. That is why we keep going. Last thing at night we say to our partners: “Ok, what do you think of this idea then?” We ask taxi drivers which campaigns they recall   from last year. We show ideas to our kids and ask them – “what’s that saying to you?”

Tick, tick, tick, whirr, whirr, whirr.

Geared up: Ever notice how so many progressive businesses look to hire from adland? It is because they know how good you are. But if you love this business, remember how it helped make you the person you are. Do not slip into the comfort zone. Remember the power of creativity and how you helped make it happen. Remember the thrill of the hunt and bringing home the results. You have seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. Do not let that experience be lost in time, like tears in rain.


For all of you client-side reading this opinion piece – brilliant. Clients are some of the bravest people we know. We all remember the great ones. Those who are prepared to fight alongside agencies for great work. Agencies will do anything for these clients. We remember every one of the greats. Their names. The campaigns. You know who you are.

Bring us into HQ. We can handle the truth.  Ask us what we really think. We will not use 80 slides to tell you. We will never presume to know more than you about your business. But in the time it takes to come up with a plan, we will have done six tours of duty on other campaigns. If you’re working out a battle strategy, ask the people straight from the front.

But here lies the problem…

Those who talk about the work, theory and strategy but never actually have to produce an idea at the end of it, are often more valued than the ad agencies which put actual ideas on the table. One of our fallen comrades, Chemistry, one of the best agencies in Dublin for the last 20 years, recently closed their doors in Leeson Park.

Those at Chemistry were the very people who had a proven record in producing ideas that had a huge positive effect on business. As for those clients tempted by that ‘in-house’ agency thing, that is like commissioning a lion from the zoo to catch an antelope. You want the one who looks mangey. Rough, like they have been dragged through a pitch backwards.

The one roaming adland. Do not tame the herd around you too much. Sure, it is a pain having to explain the brand guidelines to the new creative agency. They might scratch your nice new strategy. But they will be loyal to what matters: the law of the jungle. They know what ideas are going to survive and they will fight to the death on your behalf.

Soldiers of adland, never let anyone tell you that the agency model is broken or that all the exciting work happens elsewhere – a fallacy which gained too much credence. What makes every great ad agency great is this: the real boss is the idea.

Everyone works into that. Everyone helps create it. Everyone. There is a better view when there is nowhere to hide. You hold one of the most powerful weapons in the world. Creativity is the one area where one person can slay an army. Agencies are brilliant. The people in agencies are brilliant.

There, I said it.

Now go and knock ‘em dead soldier.

Damian Hanley is creative director at In the Company of Huskies




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