Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time his topic is beware the in-house creative director.

Over the years, I've very much come to welcome and encourage working as closely as possible with clients on the development of creative ideas. I believe in it for a number of reasons. One, the closer the collaboration, the better the chance of getting through the kind of work you believe in. Starting right from the proposition. Also, why not? Ideas and suggestions can come from anywhere. The role of the creative director is to spot them, grab them, and see that they get developed, regardless of who came up with them.

I say all of this, but it's very different from situations where clients play creative director, or worse, force their ideas on you. (I won't go into the marketing head honcho on a major international brand who presented us with the jingle he'd written in our first meeting telling us that he'd 'Tested it on consumers and they love it".)
But let's look at a third scenario, one that I have encountered on and off here and there and which raised its ugly head again for me recently - the 'In-house creative director' or 'Design consultant'.

I have never for the life of me understood this role. It's bit like 'Director of football' at a leading club. What does he do, tell them which way to kick the ball? I do understand where some companies are so big, with so much output, they need an in-house quality director, especially when it's work being developed in-house, say, your own studio for example. That I get. Makes economic sense.

House.jpgWhat doesn't is when they hire you as a creative agency, supposedly because they've reviewed your work and deem you fit to work on their brand, then have the 'in-house creative director' creative direct you. (I can't find a picture of an in-house creative director, so here's a photo of a house). A character of whom you know nothing of their credentials, and if you did, may not even consider them worth hiring. Yet here they are creative directing you, because they are sitting on the client side of the table. So, not only do you have to show respect for their often misguided judgement, they can actually insist that you act on it.

It's like hiring a really good chef, then hiring another chef to supervise them. Hiring Joel Robuchon and asking someone who's last job was in the kitchen at Café de Coral to approve everything he does.

Chris Kyme dressed up.jpgThey are usually easy to spot as you meet and greet the new client team. They'll be the one wearing a funky hat that says 'I'm creative' and dressed somewhere between a hairdresser and Axel Rose. Which makes up for the fact that they're working in-house because they couldn't make it out-house.  (Contrast that with someone like Tay Guan Hin. Looks like a banker, but has been responsible for some of the most awarded work to come out of Asia.) Photo caption: Being creative - you just need the right outfit)

I'm not saying that clients taking creative in-house doesn't work. There have been cases, like all the old Benetton work, like G.O.D. Hong Kong, where the work stands up. (We won't talk about Pepsi.)

I just don't see the point in paying for a service twice, if I'm putting my accountants hat on for a moment.

More than that, it's really annoying to be taking instructions from someone who you suspect is talking a load of twaddle.

Chris Kyme is Co-founder and Creative Director at Kymechow, Hong Kong

2 Comments

:) said:

It's even more annoying to send work to award shows and be judged by a group of creatives who we suspect are a load of twaddle.

Emyk said:

Profound comments

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