Dove's Real Beauty, BMW Films, Sega Beta-7, Have Many Fathers

We Need to Recognize That Creativity is Collaborative Today

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Three different people have told me that they, or their office, were the force behind the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign. Still, it will need at least another three ownership claimants before it can even begin to compete with BMW Films, which had about seven proud fathers at the last count.

Also doing well in the "I did that" stakes: Sega's "Beta-7," Audi's "Art of the Heist" and Burger King's "Subservient Chicken," all of which have spawned a small business (literally in the first two cases) of execs who say they had a hand in their creation.

Am I exaggerating? A little, but I've spoken to several ad execs who have been bemused by the number of people attaching themselves to some of these campaigns.

"Maybe it was more straightforward when the creator was also the guy with his name over the door," says Lee Garfinkel, creative chief at DDB New York. "All we have in this business is our ideas. Ideas are our currency. And unfortunately there are a lot of people who think that stealing those ideas is easier than creating the ideas themselves."

And on the face of it, it seems he's right that this boils down to a lack of integrity among a handful of players. A viciously competitive marketing-services world-capacity for campaign creation way outstrips demand-and a business culture that favors talk over walk (oh, the endless meetings), appear to have spawned a band of credit thieves.

Sounds diabolical, but before you fill your iPod with Enya and don your "End Is Nigh" sandwich board, consider this: What if the multiple ownership claims around these campaigns actually reflect the fact that all were hatched collaboratively, across borders and across agency and production-house lines. That wouldn't preclude the possibility that there is a byline bandit or two in our midst-it is hard to explain the number of people with BMW Films on their resumes-but the proliferation of credit-takers would actually reflect a new way of working.

That new way has already been adopted by Don Hall, the Xbox marketing chief. He spent the last two years creating a dream team collective for the Xbox launch. His agencies are JDK Design, 72andSunny, AKQA and McCann Erickson. None of those agencies is "the lead," and there's no central control point-Hall expects everyone to talk about all aspects of the campaign and come to him when they've figured it out.

The late Geoffrey Frost talked, just weeks before his death, about creating a similarly pioneering model for Motorola. He would have a central control- BBDO would work with him to create this-but talent would be pulled in from wherever it was needed to create the right campaign, whether that meant BBDO working with a rival ad agency, a design firm or a 16-year-old Japanese gamer.

The inevitable shift away from expensive film shoots and toward digital creation, combined with today's imperative that campaigns feature a high-level of interactivity and deploy media channels effectively and creatively, has already prompted marketers and agencies to look beyond their walls for the necessary skill sets and to try new collaborative arrangements. Campaigns like "Beta-7," "Art of the Heist" and "Subservient Chicken" are the product of such teamwork.

In fact there are one or two people who probably haven't yet received their share of the credit for these campaigns. This is partly because, as one top creative director put it, "there is a perception in advertising that sharing credit diminishes the authors' contribution to an idea. That is absurd and boils down to two things: ego and greed."

As collaboration becomes more common-and it will-that will have to change.

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