The Rise of the New Creative Class

In branding and advertising, creativity is the key to differentiation. Creativity is looking at the world from a different angle, and coming up with something that people engage with. Creativity is about making something trivial interesting, creating something new or turning common beliefs upside down. It’s unexacting. It touches nerves. It evokes discussions. It makes people feel something. And it makes people do something.

Creativity is what distinguishes the amazing from the dull. It is the one thing that separates a mediocre campaign from a great one. And it is the main factor in driving results. It’s not the only driver, and it doesn’t always work the way it should, but more often than not, creative communications outperforms more expected campaigns (as documented by the IPA). But how does creativity work, and how is it leveraged in today’s agencies? Or, as one of the most frequent questions I’ve had in my career goes “who is creative?”.

Enter “The Creatives”. The masterminds behind advertising campaigns for a century. As a Creative Director/ECD and Copywriter for more than 20 years, I myself have been part of mystifying the creative genius (mind you, I’ve never claimed to be one myself). But we’re not living in the Mad Men era anymore. There are a lot of creative people out there. In fact, some of the most creative people I know are chefs, musicians, architects, engineers, photographers, accountants (yes), lawyers, strategists and a range of other professions most of whom aren’t related to the communications industry at all.

Creating communication today is teamwork that exceeds far beyond the trio of Art Director, Copywriter and Creative Director. Today, strategists/planners, technologists, producers, account service teams and a range of specialists in film production, music, photography, coding and social media are heavily involved in producing the work and improving the idea and the clients are often hands-on themselves to ensure brand consistency, the right messaging etc. And truth be told, everyone who works in an agency today is creative or at least they should be. Because creativity today requires more than a snappy headline, more than beautiful artwork it requires making a connection with the audience. If we want people to feel something, we have to talk to them in a way that resonates with their needs, their values and their cultural traits. Hitting them over the head with repetitive communication won’t work.

Connecting with people in a successful manner comes down to creating a proposition people can believe in, having an idea that that is relevant to both the consumer and the brand – and to execute the idea in a way that makes people engage and feel positive about the brand. The two vehicles that can deliver this in the most effective way are entertainment and utility – either entertaining people in a way that makes them want to laugh, cry, jump or whatever – or give them a tool or utility that improves their daily life, something they find useful (not just useful for the brand). If done right, this becomes a shareable moment for them, providing them with social currency and creating greater brand affinity. But this isn’t something that comes with the usual set-up it comes through collaboration and through a strong client partnership, where they view marketing communication as something more than advertising, something deeper than a funny line or an interesting photo.

That’s why I say it’s time to redefine the creative presence in communications. It’s not just about individuals, it’s about culture, and it’s about collaboration. It’s about recognising the creative value of all the people involved, from the agency, the clients and everyone else. Because if we acknowledge that creativity transcends beyond the “creative team”, we will get more creativity, more great work and more consistency across the board. Of course, the creative team is overall responsible for the idea, the writing and the execution. But if we don’t add technologists into the mix, we probably won’t get transformational ideas. A different attitude, and acknowledging that creating a differentiated and horizontally integrated communication platform requires more than just one “good idea”. In the future of communications, these creative forces will work together around one strategic platform and a series of ideas connected by one big creative idea. Most agencies recognise that, so I find it odd that the team model isn’t adapted to deliver these type of ideas.

I believe that creative people will play an even more important part in the future of marketing communications and technology. They may just not be in the positions or have the titles they have today. Embracing creativity on all levels, including the application of technology will change brands and industries. Waiting for someone else to take charge, however, is a sure way to fail.

Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder & CEO of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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[Main photo by Clio Awards]