Liberating Creativity: The Old Agency Model Doesn't Work Anymore

A New Structure for Creative Teams -- Storyteller and Software Developer

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I remember years ago, the first week I started work as an account executive in advertising. I was sitting in a training room, attending a workshop about how to define an idea in the context of advertising. All the new account executives, copywriters and designers took notes diligently on the various aspects and dimensions that our trainer indicated, to define a valid advertising idea. Then we split into breakout sessions, in small teams, to brainstorm ideas for a TV commercial. I remember a young, talented copywriter on my team was very frustrated because he could not decide if some of the thoughts he had could qualify as an advertising idea because they were not "campaignable."

It felt that as young professionals, we spent more time debating if an idea was right or wrong by definition, and not enough time on whether the idea should be better, more effective, more engaging, or more compelling. We definitely did not spend any time debating if it must live on TV, or whether the idea solved any real business problems, disrupted any industry infrastructures, or created any opportunity to expand the brand's influence as a service or utility. The vocabulary for what we must deliver for our clients now simply did not exist.

Creative departments need to change

In 2015, most people would agree that technology has forever changed people's relationships with brands. It has changed how people connect with each other and how we connect with brands. It has also enabled brands to play different roles beyond their physical products and services.

Technology and accessibility to information have changed how people form perceptions and opinions -- in fact, how culture itself is nurtured.

In this new world, how we come up with creative solutions has to change. We must embrace interactive and nonlinear messaging. Hand-held devices and mobility means everywhere; stories need to be told seamlessly across screens. And business ideas need to be nurtured through creativity, innovation, and imagination. Broadcast advertising is not necessarily part of the creative solution anymore.

In this new world, the role of a contemporary creative agency has to change. Change will not just go away and wait its turn, just as the fabled King Canute failed to turn back the tides.

Agencies cannot simply perceive the evolution of our industry, beyond traditional advertising, as a simple move from ads to content. Agencies have to choreograph every step in the customer journey and curate brand assets while gently accepting the fact that your brand equity is co-created, in real time, with users who you cannot control.

In this new world, the structure of a classic creative department needs to change. Only two major roles exist in a contemporary creative team -- the storyteller and the software developer. We have to get used to the fact that game-changing ideas, at times, come not from the storyteller but from the software developer. This is the real, exciting and fast-moving world we live in every day.

Creativity liberated

Let's rewind back to my first week at work. I agreed that creating "campaignable" ideas was a smart approach in a TV-centric world. But people have very different requirements today in our complex, multi-screen world where they simply do not start their brand journey through traditional mediums.

Great ideas create immediate results, in real time. Great ideas reinforce brand narratives that inspire, connect and empower people. Great ideas naturally embrace data and technology to make them part of the human experience. Great ideas that transform complex business challenges into meaningful experiences can change people, culture, behaviors, and elevate what matters most -- our lives.

And most of the time, the right solution to the actual problem will not be an ad.

Digital liberates creative thinkers, with or without screens. It's time to join the renaissance of our marketing communication industry, if you haven't done so.

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