INDUSTRY SEEKS GUIDANCE FROM PRIEST
Ben Priest, Founding Partner and ECD of multi-award winning creative agency adam&eveDDB popped by the DDB Sydney office to say hello recently . The immense success of adam&eveDDB has taken the industry by storm – and like so many, we wanted to know how they got there. Copywriter Owen Bryson was just one of the many members of DDB Sydney staff who rushed to grab a chair as Ben took the time to divulge what he believes makes a great agency. Owen shares some of the key outtakes here…
They say desperate times call for desperate measures, so I think my headline seems quite appropriate. As a creative industry we are perennially desperate – desperate to make great work.
If you look for inspiration amidst this desperation, looking to those who already are making indisputably the greatest work of this era is a pretty good start. DDB Sydney had the enviable opportunity to do just that with a visit from Ben Priest, founding partner of adam&eveDDB.
For those of you who don’t know, in 2014, Ben and his team picked up pretty much every coveted accolade there is: Cannes agency of the year, Campaign agency of the year and British Arrows agency of the year, to name a few. We were all eager to learn what made the agency tick.
The guys at adam&eveDDB live by an eloquent mantra: “We want to do brilliant things on stuff people buy in shops”. What they mean by this is that it’s all well and good doing “a high-profile campaign for dyslexic elephants”, but who in the real world is going to see it? What motivates them is the work that your cab driver will have seen. He can love it, or hate it, so long as he’s seen it.
He referenced how important it is to “open things up”, noting that agencies waste too much energy on inter-departmental conflict. There are no “departments” at adam&eveDDB, creatives sit next to suits, planners next to finance etc. He went on to say “eventually they all get on” and “eventually they realise that they’re all quite good”. The outtake was that if we stop being precious with our work and hiding it from each other, the work has a chance to breath, evolve, and that little spark of genius might come from somewhere completely unexpected.
He outlined how beneficial it can be to “lose the ego”, using the highly regarded Monty the Penguin campaign for John Lewis as an example. As the story goes, he’d already sold the client on another great idea when the Monty script was brought to him, and he didn’t want to make it. But enough people in the agency believed in it, and told him on numerous occasions and in the nicest possible way “you’re wrong”, so eventually it dawned on him: “I must be wrong”. He sold the new work into the client, resulting in the most successful John Lewis campaign to date.
Another phrase Ben likes to employ is “hurry the fuck up”. He believes “advertising is a momentum business” and having too much time to complete a job isn’t helpful. Whilst he understands that there is a balance, that creative people need time, it seems that for adam&eveDDB the old adage is true – you can’t make diamonds without pressure.
So can the unprecedented success of adam&eveDDB be replicated?
Obviously every agency has a different dynamic, but at DDB Sydney, we do have clients that sell “stuff people buy in shops”. With imminent building work we’re certainly about to “open things up”. The agency is full of incredibly talented people, but like I think most in the industry, perhaps we could all afford to “lose a bit of the ego”.
All that’s left to do is continue to strive to make great work – And, wherever possible, “hurry the fuck up” about it.
Owen Bryson, Copywriter DDB Sydney