afaqs!

Points of View: Whose line is it anyway?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | August 19, 2014
In the ideas business, where brainstorming takes place in large groups, how to do agencies assign creative credit?

Karan Rawat

Malvika Mehra

Karan Rawat, founder and ECD, AutumnWinter Communications & Design

The problem starts when a campaign becomes big and starts winning awards. Once the idea sells, they go on to tell the world that it was cracked by them and they forget that an agency is all about team work. This happens because of inexperience and immaturity.

Once an idea is cracked, it goes through the process of getting approvals from seniors, who then take it to a different level, thereby converting a good idea into a big idea. Similarly, when a senior comes up with an idea and takes the team's help to execute it, it also becomes the team's idea.

Look at any credit list for an ad or film - it's always a long laundry list. This happens because each member of the team has contributed to the idea, from the source of the idea itself to its final execution.

If an idea is cracked during a discussion or brainstorming session, a single person cannot take the credit, because one idea leads to another, making everybody in the room the 'owner' of that idea. An idea can come from anywhere - the creative department, your CEO or a client servicing intern. It is what the agency does with the idea that counts.

Malvika Mehra, NCD and executive vice president, Grey India

Though the process of 'creative thinking' has to start at an 'individual' level, more heads can join the table a little later.

The onus lies with the creative director leading the team. He/she ought to have integrity and should be sensitive to team dynamics. Very often the quietest little trainee in the room may have the brightest idea. One has to be able spot and applaud it, irrespective of the loudest voice in the room... and, in the same vein, applaud the most flamboyant creative in the room too, if he or she deserves it, obviously.

When I take a brief, we all (my team and I) split for a couple of days (or hours!) and only re-convene once the 'individual thinking' stage is over. For any self-respecting creative person, this is an extremely crucial and sacred process, because what 'comes out' is actually a part of you. It is coloured by your personal experiences, likes/dislikes, education, upbringing and 'your life' in general. That first germ of a thought, according to me, can never be 'team work'. Sometimes, it's so brilliant that it does not really need any 'building'. All it needs is brilliant execution.

At other times, there may be a germ of an idea that perhaps needs another manifestation. Here's where some more thoughts on the table can help 'build' the core idea. This could be done with a single partner or a bunch of different people, not necessarily from the creative department. It could be with our partners in servicing, digital or planning.

Vikram Pandey

Zohar Furniturewala

Vikram Pandey, ECD, Leo Burnett India

The creative process cannot be a one-man job. It requires an illustrator, art director, director and other people to come together. It could be one person's vision, yes. But that vision gets crafted by many others. When five people sit and ideate in a room, the credit doesn't belong to the person who comes up with the final line, as a lot of thinking and process has gone into the 'making' of that line.

When it comes to 'credit stealing', well, it's a case of few bad apples spoiling the basket. Some people do try and claim credit to work that doesn't really belong to them. Ultimately, credit belongs to the person who has the vision to look at an idea and say, 'Yes, it can become big'. And the ability to spot a great idea is typically something that comes with experience.

For example, the idea that led to Dove's Real Beauty campaign was something a junior writer had put up on his soft board. A CD spotted this and came back to his head office and said, 'This is what we should be doing for Dove'. The whole campaign developed from there. Does the credit belong to the writer? Maybe not. Because it was the senior CD who had the vision to spot potential in that idea.

Zohar Furniturewala, ECD, Art, Scarecrow Communications

This problem is not rampant as such. It is part and parcel of work, as in most agencies you have to work in teams. In the case of mega brand campaigns, even if you come up with an idea, the 'hands and legs' - the manifestation - of that idea is something the whole team comes up with, unless, of course, someone is working on a small-scale campaign, at the individual level.

In some setups, there's a senior person heading a group of junior people. In these cases, the big ideas typically get cracked by the senior person, given his/her experience or exposure. Then the job of the juniors is to play the role of foot-soldiers. So, while they contribute to the idea, they cannot claim it as their own. At the same time, you cannot deny credit to the juniors either.

But when the whole team sits and comes up with ideas, then the boundaries of 'mine-versus-yours' get blurred. While brainstorming in groups, often people come up with random stuff; the vision to distill the main idea and see it through is often the senior's.

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