Waiting for Godard

Jean-Luc Godard – Looks like a comms planner

In the late 1950s and 60s, The French New Wave redefined the art of film making. Bound together by a desire to use the moving image as a blank canvas for personal creative expression and interpretation, they broke from the shackles imposed by the linear narrative structures that were favoured by cinema’s ancien régime, thus shifting the accepted boundaries of their discipline.

The output of the movement was a body of seminal and innovative work from a group of iconoclastic individuals (Truffaut, Godard, Rivette etc.) that whilst tantamount to revolutionary at the time, helped liberate cinematic creativity and form many major elements of modern (mainstream) cinema as it is today. By breaking free of the traditional constraints that were hitherto imposed in film-making, the creative potential of the New Wave protagonists (and of course, cinema as a whole) was liberated and reinvigorated.

I reckon comms planning could learn a lesson from this.

I work in a large, (comparatively) progressive media agency, where creativity is encouraged across the board. Whilst we talk a good game, however, there are a number of fundamental (and frankly, frustrating) issues that hinder genuine creativity on a day-to-day basis (this said, however, we are far better at it than most of the pack). The planning department talk about ‘media neutrality’ and ‘comms planning’, but often, our role is nothing more than that of standard ‘media planner’ (“I want some press, what titles should I use”) or account management – a far cry from formulating creative comms solutions. (Please note: I do not mean to infer that these roles are inferior, as they of course are not. They’re just very different to that of communications planner).

The hindrances stem directly from our modus operandi: day-to-day fire fighting, the client management, the 10 hours stuck to a desk a day, the subordinate position we hold among other agency disciplines, and the perceived view of comms planners still being simply ‘numbers men’. We are stuck in a way of doing things, which although might not be the most effective, creative or inspiring, is the accepted one. We still work in a closed, linear way, and this is wrong. In a nutshell, the current framework of the CP role is not conducive to creativity.

To generate the best product, comms planners need to liberate their creativity – the traditional, linear structures that govern our working practice are not issued by divine ordinance. There are a few new wave-esque agencies who are breaking from the traditional shackles to great success. In the meantime the rest are still waiting for their own Jean-Luc Godard to drag them from the mire. Given the largely risk-averse nature of our industry, I fear some will be waiting for a while.


3 Responses to “Waiting for Godard”

  1. Stan Lee Says:

    A very interesting post Doug.

    I am a senior copywriter and sometime Creative Director who has stepped outside of the agency mainstream to work with a couple of like minded mates. One is a suit with a great strategic brain, the other is a designer cum art director.

    One of the things I most enjoy about our small scale collaborative way of working is the blurring of roles. We are all three experts in our given field, yet we also are creative generalists, smart enough to be able to take on board the opinions of others.

    I see our way of working as being very much like Johan Cruyf’s ‘Total Football’. It’s an analogy I love. Each of us does what we do best, yet what makes what we do even better is the interplay of people stepping outside of their traditional remit.

  2. Doug Says:

    Thanks for the comment Stan.

    I love the total football analogy – it sounds like you have a good thing going on there.

    I think there are numerous examples where a group of individuals have shaken off the shackle of an accepted norm to great creative success (I rambled about Godard and co. because I just watched Le Week End again recently and it got me thinking)

    The key, I suppose, is liberation and being brave enough to do things differently. Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep et al. are great (and probably far less pretensious) examples of this!

  3. Marcus Brown Says:

    I think larger agencies should stop having departments and start having micro agencies under their roof. They would each have their own P&L, would have to develop new business and position themselves within the overall framework.

    Something like that. Maybe.

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