The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Wieden+Kennedy Is A Business …
December 1, 2010, 6:29 am
Filed under: Comment

This is going to come across as a massively toady post.

Believe it or not, that was not my intention, it’s just a couple of things have happened to me recently that has resulted in me feeling the need to write this … and it’s not just the fact my review is coming up, ha!

Right, let’s get it over and done with.

W+K is an amazing place to work … and I’ve worked at a few amazing places with more than a few amazing people.

OK, so I’ve only been here about 4 months so who knows how the future may alter my view … but given the way they have handled my “idiosyncrasies” – as well as my gob – I can honestly say it’s a place that lets you be yourself and encourages you to do the best work of your life.

But here’s the thing, the best work of your life means the best commercial work of your life.

I must admit I get a bit fed up hearing people talk about wanting to work here because they think they can do stuff regardless of the clients needs – I mean, who the hell do they think provides the income that would allow them to get paid?

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not going to do stuff we don’t believe is right just because a clients ego or fee is pushing for it, but by the same token, we’re not going to do stuff we don’t believe is right just because our ego or profit margin is pushing for it.

Sure we have a lot of internal projects that are about individual freedom and expression … sure there’s people here who want to do things that will end up having nothing to do with the ad industry … but while we have fun, we don’t lose sight of why we’re here and the people who just see it as a home for indulgent, creative freedom are not just wrong, but – at least in my eyes – the enemy.

Just because Dan Wieden hasn’t sold the company to a mulitnational doesn’t mean he doesn’t like money. OK, so he’s hardly eating bread out of a dumpster in the back streets of Portland, but his business head knows that without the profits his clients give him for creating, producing and delivering interesting, exciting and effective work … his bigger plans and goals for the company could be severely impacted and for a man who has achieved so much, he still has a lot of hunger for things he wants to try.

So sure, Wieden is where you come to do the best work of your lives … but it’s worth remembering that work is still the operative word.

27 Comments so far
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It never fails to amaze me how people confuse agencies principals with not doing what clients want. Pushing back and pushing away are very different things and regardless how clever or interesting an agency is, if they can’t meet the fundamental needs of a clients fundamental needs, they won’t be in business for very long.

Creativity and commerciality needn’t be mutually exclusive and I think one of the reasons W+K are so good is because the man at the top has both these characteristics in equal measure so they work together rather than one being more dominant as it is in other agencies.

Maybe I’m completely wrong but I would like to know what your colleagues think of this post, especially Mr Wieden.

Comment by Pete

i like people who slag off agencies that want to make money and then go in to their bosses office and demand a fucking payrise. i hate quoting campbell but he did say it best. making disgusting amounts of moolah isnt the issue, its how you do it and what you do with it thats the fucking important bit. wish i remembered that when campbell fucking diddled me out of my fucking fortune. the bernie madoff of fucking adland.

Comment by andy@cynic

You must feel ill quoting me. Or quoting me has made you ill. Eitherway, I win, ha!

Both you and Pete make good points [though yours was mine] … this attitude within adland that business people can’t be creative and vice-versa is just bollocks and seems to be driven by individuals needs to be valued, despite rarely opening their eyes to the talent and skills other people can bring to the table.

I think Branson is pretty creative … as is Jobs … you don’t get people saying they’re just rational businessmen, and whilst I know some clients are lacking in certain creative skills [which is why they come to us in the first place, or should be] to discount their needs and wants is ridiculous because part of our job is to be able to understand these, understand why they’re important and then find a way to make it happen, even if the approach is different to how they initially envisioned.

Creativity – at least in our industry – is finding commercially viable and interesting ways around problems, ignoring that issues and you don’t deserve a paycheck.

Comment by Rob

I always had the feeling that in a lot of agencies the people who have the indulgent creative freedom are benefiting from the ones doing the boring answer the client needs work.

It does seem a bit different at Wieden though as you said, since they go out of their way to combine the two. I’m surprised there are enough people expecting it to be an irresponsible creative haven to make you write about it.

Comment by Rafik

I know what you’re saying mate, but you would be absolutely amazed – and appalled – at some of the things I hear about why people want to come here. And not just young and naive – I’m talking the whole spectrum of talent and experience.

God I sound such a miserable fucker don’t I.

Comment by Rob

What are clients? Are they the same as assholes or something I need to learn about ao I can avoid them?

Comment by Billy Whizz

i have more friends that work for wieden + kennedy around the world than for any other company. i can’t work out whether that makes me feel proud or ill. maybe a bit of both. 🙂

Comment by lauren

you call that work?

Comment by John

good fucking call dodds. oi campbell, spending 20 hours in an office isnt work if all youre doing is writing blog posts and crap twitter bollocks.

Comment by andy@cynic

You sound like my Dad. Well you are about the same age … Ha.

Comment by Rob

you need better friends.

Comment by andy@cynic

this is quite a good fucking post for you campbell. who helped you write it?

might be more fucking effective if the person who writes about work actually did a day of it. not my fucking problem anymore is it. fucking awesome.

Comment by andy@cynic

Not your “fucking problem” for now.

My review is coming up, so it might be your “fucking problem” soon.

Comment by Rob

do not get fucking sacked campbell. ive already got one fucking disaster in my hands with the fucking woodworm money pit my dearest still thinks will be wonderful so i cant handle another fucking disaster landing in my fucking lap.

Comment by andy@cynic

I hope my direct message about that little drawing experiment you were running online recently didn’t contribute to you writing that post because that was definitely not meant like that …

Also happy to hear Mr Wieden likes money.

Comment by Thomas

Developing ideas that make people care enough to hand over their hard earned money is something to be celebrated.

Comment by George

How to maintain the balance between creative integrity and business objectives will always be an issue at W+K. It is at most agencies, but especially at W+K where chaos and irreverent energy of young people drive its work.

It is sad that many agency people do not understand the most fundamental thing about the business they’re in. It IS a business like you say Rob. I mean, WTF?

I loathe smug creatives and agency people who are oblivious, unaware and/or uninterested in our business challenges. They can go produce their ‘master piece’ with their own money and on their own time.

At the end of the day, those great creatives are great businessmen. They understand that they are in business.

Only the small potatoes with a warped sense of self-importance will openly say stupid shit like, “clients don’t matter”. Maybe it’s just that you’re not as hot as you think you are. Consider that, Mr./Ms. ‘Hot Creative’ biatch!

Having said that, clients should always be open to be challenged and pushed to develop great work.

Now, go make the fucking logo bigger.

Comment by Hoon

Hello Mr Hoon – how the hell are you and what the hell are you doing on here, I thought you had much more taste.

Mind you, you do like Queen as well don’t you, ha!

Very good points, and given your heritage and experience in adland [and now as Mr Uber-Important client], it is something that will be very hard to argue against.

Comment by Rob

Explains why Billy doesn’t work there then.

Comment by DH

And you!

Comment by Rob

Anyone can do what the client wants, anyone can do what the client doesn’t want. The geniuses are the people who do great work, effective work, and do so in a way that keeps everybody happy.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’ll be interested to see how you’ll post rationalise Nike motorbikes though

Comment by northern

Did Andy pay you to say that!

And it would be the ultimate demonstration of ‘Just Do It’ wouldn’t it?

Comment by Rob

I’m still reeling from seeing a panel of five creative directors moaning about the state of the industry and how they were constantly forced to compromise their artistic instincts.

We are all salespeople.

Comment by John

Some are just more successful than others eh …

Comment by Rob

Some people believe their own hype…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

C’mon, creatives doing work based on what they want, without relevance to the client business?!

At least on the lovely island where I am earning my daily bowl of rice, this is a minor problem, compared to all the agencies out there doing what the client literally tells them, without adding any value whatsoever, except a bit of design and copy, and the obligatory celebrity.

Of course, we all here know we deal in “Art Serving Capitalism”, … oops, not a Wieden quote 😉

Comment by Michael

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