Treating creatives like adults

For far too long this industry has treated creatives like the goose that lays the golden egg – a mysterious creature that must be locked away, waited on hand and foot, and generally treated like a jewel that must pandered to and protected. But times are changing. Times are changing both for the industry as we move into a multi-channel, consumer controlled media environment, but also for agencies as structures need to evolve to deliver more flexibility against increasingly tight margins.

Regardless of all this, traditional agencies are still caught up in silos of account management, strategic planners and creatives – and each one of these groups has become stereotyped into their roles and as a result marginalised to a specific spot: Only account management can talk about money and the product of the agency, only planners can think about strategy and consumer knowledge, and finally only creative have the monopoly on ideas and how we execute them – of course I exaggerate, and we hear that wonderful phrase “creativity and ideas can come from anywhere,” but how many Madison avenue agencies are actually delivering on this? How many agencies are giving their (traditional) creatives the access to the big picture within which they work? How many agencies are making it a reality, that everyone is creative and creating new custom teams based on actual client needs?

It seems to me that regardless of what we say and publish, the creative environment is still a room with no doors and windows, but only a letterbox where we push in the creative brief and then wait patiently for the result, defending it against all intruders (particularly competitors and anxst ridden clients).

So do we really need to change this model? Can we continue to live with our golden geese in their battery farm?

Business issues becoming more complex
Long gone are the days of a simple market, of clear business ideas and a single USP or RTB that made a brief, well brief. Today’s business issues cross a multitude of departments and challenges, from PR and new product development to sales and CRM – the days of a single simple challenge like brand awareness or increased sales are gone.

Consumers segementation atomising
Demographics are dead, it is no longer enough to say women 18-25 and have a good knowledge of our target group. We need to understand where they are in a lifecycle, what their behaviour and attitudes are, how they interact with each other (and brands) both on and offline – this knowledge has become so complex that in trying to distil it we tend to lose some detail, it can no longer be controlled by the planning department.

Strategy becoming as important as creative
The agency team of tomorrow is a strategist and a creative, working together with the client (yes they might be backed up by project management, but this is what the outside world will see), it doesn’t matter whether they are an art director, a copywriter or a strategic planner but between them they will be able to understand the challenge, frame it, and come up with creative solutions – all the rest is simply implementation. The challenges today need this team, rather than yesterday’s chain of client service to planning and eventually to our creative in his (or her) luxury tower.

Knowledge of channel, medium as important as creative
As media agencies winning awards start to find their feet alongside brand/creative agencies it is clear that execution is a major portion of success. Knowledge of the media has been their strength and as they add the piece of creative thought up front they suddenly become a real force to be reckoned with.

So the end result of all this? We need to rethink how we structure our teams, how we interact with the client and how we think about our business solutions and communication – above all, really live the fact that not only is everyone creative, but that we need to let our existing creatives our of their box and into meetings and discussions.

By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.

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