Cannes Lions chairman, Terry Savage, went to AWARD’s Think:Long seminar at the end of May, to give advertising a kick up the pants. “Everything has changed, but nothing has changed,” he began. “It’s sad right now that we are giving ourselves the biggest beating up when she should be on an absolute high…The one thing we know is that creativity is the biggest differentiator to reaching people. We need to change the perception that creativity is humbled. We need to bring confidence back.” This became Cannes Lions’ theme for 2018.
If creativity is being challenged – or humbled as Savage put it – wanting it to come to the forefront again isn’t enough. It has to be made to happen. That’s where adland’s creative leaders come in. Isn’t it? The Stable asked a group of creative leaders what they would change in their agencies to make the ideal creative environment for producing the most creative work possible? Or if they’ve done it already, to share what they know.
Josh Bryer, freelance creative director (#11 most awarded CD at D&AD, 2018)
Bring Back the Magic
Creativity is magic. Without it, we have no ideas. And without them, we are nothing.
Weird, then, how the creative act is no longer as valued as it should be.
Data. Automation. Programmatic. Our love-affair with computers has led us to value things that make stuff happen faster, but not necessarily better.
So how do we bring the magic back to the fore?
With magical items, of course…
Or until we can figure out how to levitate our workstations, Idea Excursions.
Geographical changes break stagnant thinking, by forcing the brain to think differently.
Park. Beach. Cinema. Gallery. Take your creatives somewhere new for an hour – even if it’s just once or twice a week – and watch the fresh ideas flow.
Or until we can devise a way to shut out all the distractions: Craft Pods.
Open plan is good for cross-pollination, but it’s terrible for concentration. There are times when you – and you alone – need to stick your head down and get stuck into your craft.
Cordon off some soundproof rooms, fill them with inspiration, and admire the polish.
Or until we can really bend time around our needs: Absolute Flexitime.
We all have different times of the day when the thinking comes easier. It might be 9-11am for one creative, but 9-11pm for another. It shouldn’t matter when you’re in the agency, as long you’re at your best, and you don’t miss a key meeting. It’s got to be a win-win.
Toby Talbot, chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi NZ
I fundamentally don’t think creativity is being challenged. In fact, I think creativity is forcing everything and everyone else to change.
This year at Cannes, I believe there was more focus than ever on ideas that drive growth for a brand versus creativity for the sake of awards. That’s a massive improvement. Cannes will never be perfect (witness the circus that has become all the giant tech companies trying to outdo one another on the Croisette).
But on the whole, Cannes seems to be getting its house in order. It has to or it will die. Like agencies. Like media companies. Like brands.
I guess change is the nature of the business we’re in. We’re sharks. Advertising must always keep moving. Just as culture changes and we change with it or, on the very rare occasion, inch ever so slightly ahead of it. Just as data and all the possibilities of what you can do with data changes. And lest we forget, just as technology continually changes from VR last year to AI this.
It’s a ludicrous thought, however, to suggest that creativity is being challenged. In Cannes this year, I saw creativity do inspiring things. I didn’t see data do that. Or tech. It all started with creativity, or as I prefer to call it “a fucking big idea”. Deloitte won its first Lion this year and quite probably not its last. But does that mean consultancies are taking over advertising? Only if they buy agencies. But even then, what they are buying is creativity because it’s the one thing they don’t have. Creativity remains top trumps. More so than ever. Is there anything I would change or install in our agency? Only a time machine. Creativity we have. Time, we don’t.
Tony Clewett, executive creative director, FCB Auckland
Looking to increase creativity? Then run. Run right out of the creative department and head straight for strategy. In FCB’s case, that’s down two levels, but well worth leaving the comfort and camaraderie of the creative hub.
Early on in my career I was given a great piece of advice, “Stick to the strategists like glue. They’re the smartest people in the agency.” I agree, although I just don’t ever admit that in front of them. But the super-cool thing is a lot of clients were dished out that same work-life lesson too. They seem to sit up and listen to what a strategist has to say (to be honest, probably more so than a creative).
Case in point, we recently needed to convince our energy client to do something a little crazy. Purchase a beautiful classic car (not cheap), rip the engine out and replace it with an electric one (not cheap or easy either, as we were to find out). To get the client over the line, we deliberately included the idea within the strategic presentation, with our head of strategy positioning it as the logical solution to their marketing problem. Needless to say, they loved it.
The truth is, we have no shortage of ‘creativity’ in the creative department. It’s already built into creatives’ DNA. I don’t need them to be more creative, I just need more clients to buy into our creative solutions to their problems, rather than the predictable ones.
And down two flights of stairs is the extra firepower to help me do that. I may even just wander down now…
Anthony Moss, executive creative director of whiteGREY
Have you ever walked into the dentist and said, “I’ve been to the dentist before, so I know how this works. Give me two occlusal rests on 24 and 25, then check the fissure on 38. If I’m happy with your work, I’ll pay you 60% of the bill.”?
No you haven’t. Because you’re not a dentist, you let your qualified dentist who has studied and practiced dentistry, do that. And more importantly, you trust and respect your dentist’s ability.
It’s always puzzled me why we allow some clients to do that to us. Sure, they’re paying our salaries and sure it’s their brand, but why has creativity taken such a backseat in our industry and in the eyes of so many clients? Why are so few creative agencies treated like their clients’ trusted advisors?
Is it because more and more pitch lists consist of a dozen or more agencies? Is it because talents are no longer loyal to their workplace but instead bounce around more than the previous generation of ad creatives? Is it because some agencies we compete against will offer almost anything to win a contract? Is it because even Cannes has a Lion for clients now? Is it because finance departments at the agency and the client, are trying to quantify the return on every dollar spent on creative?
I think it’s a combination of all these things. But we’re the ones to blame.
So, in order to put creative at the forefront of our industry again, we have to realign priorities across the board, from short-term profit to a focus on long-term creative success in agencies and within client organisations. And we have to have more self-respect for our efforts and let the ideas and immeasurable magic of creativity be our boss.
Simon Brock, creative director, Digitas Australia
91% of ad spend is viewed for less than a second. That means no one cares about the vast majority of creative output our industry generates. To put creativity at the forefront of our industry, we need to make the most of the inputs available to us.
Today we have a new input to empower our creativity – data. A rich understanding of data can reveal previously hidden correlations or behaviours, unearthing creative opportunities that literally didn’t exist before. Data enables creativity to shape itself around its recipient, reacting to them in real time to create more meaningful connections. If da Vinci or Shakespeare or Lennon had the opportunity to create works that could understand their audience at an individual level and reshape themselves accordingly, my guess is that they’d all have made the most of that opportunity. So why aren’t more of us doing the same?
Fuelling creativity with data is how we’ll re-establish the value of marketing, both for our clients and for consumers. Making that happen means enhancing the data-literacy of the creative teams we lead and inviting a broader range of disciplines into the creative process.
That’s why we’ve de-siloed the creative process at Digitas. It’s why we take on every project with a cross-minded team of data, tech, strategy, media and creative thinkers. And it’s how we’re able to create work that combines these inputs through the line, leading to continual optimisation of the creative we deliver.
Creative leaders need to get comfortable with the idea that data has the potential to inspire and enable the best work of our lives – if we know how to use it.
I recently interviewed WeCouldDoThat creative partner and The Hairy Banana creative founder, Matt Smith, and top advertising photographer, Adrian Cook, in a story about creative freedom I called Inspiration, Genius and Seizing the Moment. This Chat was on my mind, so I asked Smith and Cook what they need in their physical environment to be at their most creative. Here’s what they said:
[Video and stills (below) by Matt Reed of Captured]
And because talking about obstacles is the only way to muster the firepower needed to roll them away, here’s their conversation about creative freedom: