A creative director quits and £40m is wiped off the value of a company. This is no egotistical bell-end packing up his moleskin and flouncing off for a Nicaraguan flat white. It’s Emma Hill of Mulberry who called it a day last month. Hill’s departure indicates the value in real terms – of real creativity. Of creating real products with real value.
In an interview last year, Hill said; “I’m from Wales and my family are bakers and miners, people who did things with their hands.” Ask Hill what she does and I suspect she’ll say “I make handbags.” You produce something, someone else values it, and they exchange money. Her arrival at Mulberry in 2008, heralded a five-fold increase in its share price.
Hill’s words and actions have a purity and a clarity about them that the marketing and communications sectors could learn from. Conferences, round tables and essays grapple with measurement and evaluation of campaigns – but it may be better to start at source and be a little clearer with what it is we are attempting to achieve, doing and producing in the first place.
I was once introduced to a female friend’s new boyfriend. She teed him up with the words: “he’s not that bright. He doesn’t have a job like yours.” The bloke was an aviation engineer, and tweaked freshly landed 747s at Heathrow before they flew out again. Pretty smart, and pretty clear I reckon. I’d certainly value that product. On the flipside, on any given day, I could counter with “I’m a strategist, a planner, a managing partner, a social media consultant, a content producer, experiential marketer or brand partnership consultant.” No-one in the real world has any idea or interest in what I’m talking about.
There are two elements to what we – as in you and me operating in this industry bubble - do. We create demand and we create sales.
Walk into an Ogilvy office anywhere around the world and you’ll never be more than a minute’s walk away from a “We sell or else,” quote. Businesses only walk through the doors of agencies to grow their own businesses – no other reason. So if you can’t articulate how you’re going to grow a business, you’re unlikely to be much use to them.
Second, we create demand. This is where we learn from Emma Hill and start using our hands. Nothing can be said to be certain in this world other than death, taxes, Google and bullshit. If someone tells me that this is the best thing since sliced bread, I’ll be searching online and very quickly I'll find out whether I'm being bullshitted. What I need to find are things that make me go ‘wow’ or ‘hmmm.’
So we – the agencies - need to make those thingswith our hands. An app here. A film there. Something that makes your life easier when you’re about. Something that demonstrates what a brand or a product can do for me, when I’m hunting for info or sat on my arse on the sofa. In short, we make things that sell products. All we need now is a trade union, and the reintroduction of statutory fifteen minute tea breaks.
(Pic: Kat B on Flickr)