Some packaging specialists say fmcg clients are starting to divert budgets from advertising to design, and giving design groups a more strategic remit. Is that your experience, and what are the implications?


Yes, definitely, and it’s happening more and more. Elmwood has always been at the heart of a brand, but we’re getting trusted more often to lead the way with a brand’s strategic direction. About time, too. We, as designers, have usually helped define what it stands for in the first place, so it makes sense for us to be the brand’s guardian. We’re much closer to its core, are better positioned to suggest media-neutral directions, and the implications can only be good news for the brand.
Nick Ramshaw, Managing director, Elmwood Leeds

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I moved out of the traditional ad agency world for this very reason. And having also been client-side, I have seen the difference between advertising and design approaches first hand. Design groups, being media-neutral, are often better equipped to generate and ‘own’ consumer insights gleaned from their experience at the sharp end of the purchasing-decision process, and to convert those into more potent strategic solutions. The challenge is to create brand stories that are capable of application across all media channels.
Crispin Reed, Managing director, Brandhouse



Budgets follow the strategic value of design to the business. Design is a weapon, not a crutch. Wise clients use it as a weapon – a focused symbol for their brands’ values. Weaker ones try to use it as a substitute for ad spend. We should not forget that packs have to work in a one-second world, not a 60-second filmic world. We need to remain focused on what we ask packaging to achieve, and not be seduced into thinking packaging is the ‘new advertising’.
Mark Gandy, Managing director, Jones Knowles Ritchie

There’s no doubt that clients are giving packaging design increasing importance as a major communications tool at last, not just because of shelf-presence

but because it’s often the cornerstone of a visual identity which can be far-reaching. Consequently, our strategic opinions are asked for and valued. I don’t know whether advertising money is being diverted, but you only have to look around to see that thriving brands combine the skills of great design and great communications more equally than ever before.
Bruce Duckworth, Partner, Turner Duckworth

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