Metaphor Update: Client Directors As DJs?

Communicators are fond of metaphors, especially musical metaphors that appeal to our artistic and cultural aspirations.

And for PR people of a certain age (those who have actually used a fax machine, for example), the musical metaphor of choice for multitasking client directors has been the orchestra conductor.

Elegant, masterful and in supreme control of 100 instruments, this is an image we (some of us, at least) have come to rely upon to describe the expertise and composure required of those leading client engagements.

But is it a relevant analogy for those actually running the show?

I recently chaired a conference in New Delhi, where I had the honor of hosting our youngest speakers – Tetsuya Umeda and Yuichiro Joshua from Tokyo’s creative hot-shop ADK. The two had an arguably more contemporary perspective on the relative roles of advertising and PR agencies in general, and that of the client director specifically.

Tetsuya and Yuichiro were, by the way, winners of the first-ever Cannes Lions Young PR Lions competition sponsored by ICCO. Never mind they work for an ad shop – their perspective was spot on.

Ad agencies they said, “are like rock bands.” Talented musicians playing sets of tracks they’ve composed, rehearsed and produced into pre-recorded packages (formerly called albums), they’re happy to take the mantle of ‘creatives’ in the wider communications industry. No harm in that, and good work if you can get it.

But PR agencies, they argue, and PR client directors in particular, are more like world-class DJs (AfroJack maybe?). Possessing an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and tastes, carefully calibrating and blending content to suit a specific moment in time. DJs actually conjure something brand new WITH their audiences every time perform. Creativity, they said, resides in content shaped with others to produce something relevant to a precise, shared moment.

As metaphors go, I like this one a lot and thought you might, too.

As a Senior Partner, CEO of Ketchum’s European operations and Chairman of the London office, David Gallagher brings more than 20 years of public relations experience, both as a client and as a senior agency adviser, to some of the world’s leading brands and companies. Interested in PR, politics, Texas Longhorns and life with two labradoodles. Follow him on Twitter @TBoneGallagher.