There’s an old saying in screenwriting: If you want to reveal the truth of a character, dial up the pressure and force him or her to make a choice.
Well, it seems a choice is being forced upon our industry, and I think it’s a great thing.
A recent Forrester report, “The Cost of Creativity,” suggested—or rather, lamented—that “The value of agency creativity is at risk of disappearing.”
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out how we got here. Margins tighten, media fragments, agencies diversify their offerings in order to “stay relevant” and grab new revenue opportunities. Play it out and it’s easy to see the cost: an industry plagued by short-termism, seeking guarantees that aren’t there from data and analytics, and searching for answers in old debates like big agency-vs-small and AOR-vs-not. Perhaps most importantly: A creative discipline that has forgotten its only truly effective product offering.
If it sounds like the sort of rhetoric that we typically dish out to clients, it is.
So, what happened?
If it’s any consolation, where we are today is largely of our own doing.
Like most change, it didn’t occur in one sweeping, easy-to-detect moment, but in lots of small incremental steps, including:
—Defining the quality and bigness of an idea by the variety of media placements in which it appeared.
—Putting the priorities of the media platforms on which our our brands live before those of our own brands.
—Taking way too long to realize that digital media efficiency is not the way to build brand equity.
—Award shows creating endless categories, resulting in a litany of one-off executions garnering the biggest prizes, even though less effective for clients.
—And, lately, favoring short-term solutions that come with the safety net of a guaranteed, albeit far less effective, outcome.
Clients have grown skeptical of creativity’s value and are moving marketing budgets accordingly. The Forrester report forecasted that the creative discipline will grow a mere 2.4 percent through 2022, while other mediums such as ad-tech, data and analytics will grow 9 percent to 11 percent.
But there’s an outlier, and it’s telling: Brands under pressure and forced with a choice to make—much like those characters in a film—reveal an important truth.