How Creativity Can Carry Your Business Through a Recession

Here's What a Some Who've Been Around the Block a Few Times Have to Say

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So, a giant dragon of economic doom has rained fire upon the world. And the overall economic picture (and this is especially true if a certain uninformed product of the patriarchy being cynically sold as a beacon for women has any role to play) is not going to be fixed overnight.

In these pages, we've read about the ways in which this sort of environment affects ad spending. But what happens to creativity in times like these? Dark days have a way of producing creative breakthroughs. So I asked some creatives who have weathered a few economic "cycles" what really happens when Wall Street stumbles (or dives face first into an empty pool).

What will be the impact of this climate on the kind of work you'll be doing?

"It already has (had an impact). Clients have been in a slow trend to do more conservative work. The words 'guaranteed to work' get thrown around nowadays. The dependence on testing not as insight but as the decision maker is on the rise. Testing has become the client's defacto creative director nowadays. The messaging in the work has also become less singular and packed with as many messages as possible. It's the strategy of, 'everything but the kitchen sink. No, wait. Put that in there, too.' And tonality has become more subdued and quiet, less entertaining." -- Peter Nicholson, chief creative officer, Deutsch, New York

"It'll be more pragmatic. More measurable. More digital." -- Nick Law, exec VP-chief creative officer North America, R/GA What are the opportunities here?

"The opportunities in this type of market are abundant, but they're big 'if' statements. If a company takes a slight risk and takes a bolder approach that allows its message to have a strong point of view, it will be heard. It will stand out." -- Nicholson

"Hopefully our industry will finally start delivering on the hollow promises of a thousand "brave new world" PowerPoint decks. Agencies will stop talking and start doing. At last, the triumph of practice over theory." -- Law

"When fear is in the air, I always have the same response when it comes to our creative work: Be brave, be bold. Like steering into a skid, it's counter-intuitive. But bold works. It stands out from all the timid, fear-inspired work." -- Marty Cooke, chief creative officer, SS&K

"I've always thought optimism in the face of pessimism was a great response. As long as an advertiser has something to be optimistic about, of course. You don't want to appear clueless and out of step. But there's a way to be optimistic in a credible way. People are hearing from enough places that times are tough. For advertisers, it's a chance to be a positive antidote." -- Jamie Barrett, creative director and partner, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

What's creativity's role, if any, in shaping the next economic era?

"Our industry's creative minds will not just be concentrating on messaging. They'll spend more time on product enhancements and digital services that transform businesses." -- Law

So, in conclusion, bad times have the potential to make for bad advertising but, as always, there are huge benefits to zagging.

And before you get too excited, remember:

"Ninety-eight percent of advertising is awful. During difficult economic times, when companies can't afford to waste a single dollar on mediocre creative, and when outsmarting and creatively outgunning your competitors can lead to concrete market-share gains, that number plummets to 97.8%. That's the sad truth of our business." -- Paul Venables, founder and creative director, Venables Bell & Partners

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and
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