Since the 1950s, the Ad Council's Campaign Review Committee (CRC) has gathered top industry leaders to quietly edit, guide and ultimately approve all of the council’s 40+ campaigns each year.
With this week's announcement that Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer of advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, is a new CRC Chair, the Ad Council is revealing what happens behind these closed doors.
Johnson along with additional CRC Chairs Susan Credle, global chief creative officer of FCB; Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld; and Rob Reilly, global creative chairman, McCann serve as leaders for four CRC boards.
These CRCs collaborate with the Ad Council’s volunteer agencies at critical stages throughout the creative development process to optimize the impact of the campaigns.
The process serves as a creative review as the work is thoroughly evaluated by peers—some of the top creatives in the country—who hold the Council's work to the highest standards. "It’s an extraordinary pro bono contribution and they are integral to our success," says Heidi Arthur, head of campaign development, Ad Council.
There are over 30 industry leaders currently volunteering their time across the four CRC teams. Each of these four chairs has roughly six members who are CCOs, chief strategy officers and executive creative directors at agencies and media companies. They are assigned 4 to 6 campaigns for the year and review and provide input on strategies, concepts and film.
Reilly, whose three-year tenure with the group coincides with his role at McCann, admits this process to provide constructive feedback to peers is more nerve wrecking than pitching
in front of clients.
While each board operates in the same collaborative way and plays the same critical role in elevating the Council's work, the dynamics of the group are driven by the unique personalities and point of view of the Chairs.
Chairs Gallop, Reilly and Credle say one perk of their involvement has been experiencing how different agencies and executives present and solve problems creatively. "Diversity of talent and human beings makes for more interesting and richer conversations when we are looking at work," says Credle, adding her CRC acts more as an "advisory board" to the agencies that present. "We are not the client. My goal, when agencies leave a meeting with us, is for them to be inspired," she says.
Gallop, who has been involved with the organization for more than eighteen years, adds, “There is no difference between creating effective social good campaigns versus developing creative for corporate brands. Both require ingenious strategy, brilliant creativity and superb execution to shift attitudes and behavior to achieve visible, tangible outcomes." The Ad Council's remit "is to ensure the work is great, in exactly the same way we ensure that for our clients and we look for that on awards juries."
Reilly says the Council has had far-reaching influence over all aspects of the industry, including its early embrace of diverse leadership.
He notes one of its more far-reaching legacies have been to inspire brands to "take the mantle" to incorporate social cause messaging into their campaigns. Over the years, CRC members have influenced work like “Love Has No Labels” and “Smokey Bear" and although Reilly emphasizes there are differences between the Ad Council's role with NGO pro bono advertising and paid messaging, he asserts that campaign advocacy and making money aren't "mutually exclusive."
Adds Credle, "The challenge for businesses is to find causes that are authentic to their brand and to which they are willing to commit and invest in over time."