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Making creative work the opposite way

Somebody once said that if you can’t think of a solution to a problem, try to solve the opposite problem instead.

 

The Should’ve campaign is a good example of this. I was briefed to come up with a sign-off line that ‘owned optics’. Previous attempts to do this had resulted in things like ‘The UK’s favourite optician’ or ‘4 million sight tests every year’, which nobody ever liked, recognised or remembered. Notseeing clearly was, and still is, immediately much more interesting. 

 

It isn’t always how we approach things, of course, but it does give an insight into how we set up and organised Specsavers Creative. We did it the opposite way. 

 

In house agencies have the luxury of never having had to think about how we bill clients, pitch our expertise, or interest investors. We used this advantage to start at the other end of the process and create an organisation to generate ideas. 

 

Crucially, Specsavers always recognised that the fact that thecreative department was deeply embedded in the business enabled it to be run by creatives. This is an opportunity every in-house agency has, but one that few grasp properly. Specsavers built their in-house creative agency on letting the creatives get on with making work. It has been essential to success that we were made part of the marketing process, andworked directly with the Marketing Director on planning and briefing. The creatives had access to every detail of thebusiness, and that allowed us to understand what we did, who we did it for and how good (or in some instances bad!) we were at doing it. This knowledge became something which preceded Should’ve and was far more important than that line or any idea that came out of the team. It became an understanding of who we were talking to, and from that, away of speaking that suited the brand and our customers. It was, and still is, our brand’s tone of voice. 

 

From the beginning, we always had direct access to our clients, and our clients had direct access to us. But this is where I think we behaved differently to other in-house teams. Direct access to the client can be a mixed blessing. Before you know it, the whole of marketing is behind you ‘on the shoulder’, or even in the worst instances sitting at Macs. This didn’t happen at Specsavers, because we worked directly with the Marketing Director to develop the briefs, and if the marketing team wanted to change the work, they had to change what the Marketing Director had begun. We ended up with the reverse of what sometimes happens in agencies; the small jobs could sometimes be vulnerable to unpicking and interference and weren’t always our finest hour, but nobody ever touched the big stuff. That always went out exactly as approved. 

 

This informs my only tip if you are setting up an in-house organisation. Make sure that it is connected directly with the one person who makes the decisions. Then, there is only ever one decision, and that is the most important factor in making great work. 

Hear me talk more about how Specsavers Creative Department has developed over my 20 years at the helm at Creative Operations London 2020.

Graham Daldry is the creative director for Specsavers. 

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