I, like lots of other folks, was very saddened to hear of the closing of Cliff Freeman & Partners. But what struck me was how few agencies do what Cliff Freeman did–keep a style of advertising for many years, through many clients. No, it didn’t last forever, but can an agency even attempt to create a signature creative style anymore?
Most agencies attempt to do it all, style-wise: serious-minded work, goofball humor, sophisticated humor, “edgy work” (whatever that is), and every now and then a real sentimental tear-jerker. Few, if any, agencies do it all equally well.
What would you need to create another agency like Cliff Freeman? Well, I’m not sure, but I’ll take a guess.
It takes a leader, and style-setter who can then impart that style to the succeeding generations of talent. Someone who can define the sensibility and codify it somehow so others can adapt to it and improve upon it. A strong personality, but not so domineering because other people need to share in creating ideas around the vision. And someone who has a vision of how a style can translate in today’s different media. And through it all, acheive results. Don’t forget, Cliff Freeman was a great retail agency–much of its Little Caesar’s work sold a particular menu item, so there was always a selling objective of some sort.
It’s the subject of my latest column on Talent Zoo.