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Why the Breakdown of Creative Silos Will Save Marketing

What happens when marketing, advertising, and design come together to challenge the status quo

By Published on .

Credit: Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies

Once upon a time, there was a creative industry with three different disciplines: marketing, advertising, and design. For a long time, these industries were happy. They were able to live in their own little houses, do their own thing, and occasionally talk and work with each other but then go back to their own private spaces and talk their own talk.

Then along came disruptive technologies. There were new platforms, new devices, and new ways of doing things. They huffed and they puffed, and they blew all the houses down. All the houses were destroyed, leaving the separate industries scrambling to build something newer, better, and stronger. The chaos that ensued from that breakdown—and the subsequent process of rebuilding—has brought together creatives of all types to truly collaborate as they create a new reality sans boundaries.

Think about the way marketing, advertising, and design have been operating for the last 20 years. There were clear boundaries and clear "swim lanes." Even within the disciplines, there were "word people" and "visual people." And while they came together, they weren't truly living in the same space or breathing the same air.

The advertising efforts were at times separate from the marketing campaigns and maybe even separate from the overall design of the company or product. Perhaps moments of harmony were achievable—usually around a major launch of a product or brand—but because each of these disciplines were practiced by different teams, these brief moments of messaging unity started to eventually diverge.

Technology is rapidly erasing these lines and redrawing the industry map. The emergence of new communications tools—especially social media—has completely reformulated both the creative strategy and the number of channels we use to deliver our messages. We have an opportunity as creatives to work together in more meaningful ways–using all of our superpowers to change people's minds, change the world, or simply sell our products.

So, how do we do this?

First, we need to recognize and embrace the truth: As we have created more channels, more ways to share our messages and get images out, we are often less successful than we used to be. We now have to backtrack, regroup, and figure out new ways to cut through the clutter and reconnect with an audience that has stopped listening.

Second, we need to structure ourselves and our work teams differently. We need to reach beyond our traditional boundaries. Right now, it feels chaotic as the walls come down. There are turf wars happening in big companies and agencies—but there are bright spots, too. Hilton recently created a new organizational structure that pulls together brand, marketing, and customer service into one division. While small companies with small teams may have a natural advantage of nimbleness, they need to carefully manage where to focus limited staff and budgets. The reality for a brand is that each part of its message needs to be tightly dovetailed together—it needs to touch all of our senses at the same time.

Lastly, we must embrace new tools, technologies, and techniques that will help us do our jobs better. We have done a good job integrating analytics into our daily practices but we also need to embrace emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. While these may not be a part of the way we do things in the next few years, they will undoubtedly change the world around us and we need to be mindful of that change.

We also need to be open to disciplines we once viewed as distant cousins—film, music, and art, to name a few—becoming a bigger part of what we as classic advertisers, marketers, and designers do. We need to share techniques, inspire each other, and push our creativity to different and unfamiliar places.

While any disruption to the consistent narrative of our lives—fairy tale or real—is scary, it is also an opportunity to mix things up, reconsider the status quo, and most importantly, rebuild a stronger, more effective industry that can fully embrace the huffing and puffing of a world in transition.

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