Sean Duffy wrote a provocative post recently on TalentZoo.com titled “Advertising Agencies: Kiss Your Creative Teams Goodbye.” He contends that to maximize the potential of digital media, traditional agencies must be willing to restructure the venerated copywriter/art director team. As you might imagine, the eye-popping title of the post led to a flurry of emotionally-charged user comments. Ah, digital. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways.
Reactions fell neatly into Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Let’s examine reactions to the post through the lens of each of these stages. When assembled, the individual responses paint a great picture of the psychological and emotional trauma the advertising industry as a whole is currently experiencing.
C’mon it’ll be fun, I promise.
So many quotes, so little time. I like this one:
The essence of a great, memorable and powerful advertising communication – that “killer line” and that awesome concept that expresses the idea – that’s still best born of the “arcane” marriage of writer and art director.
But I love this one:
First of all, what this article is actually saying is that the creative team became a creative herd. And I think we all know that too many cooks… What died is the idea, the concept. I agree that with a good concept anyone who has never written or art directed for the web would do a better job than those “experienced” in executing drek. There is so much shoved in our faces right now, it’s too bad that none of it has a concept. If it did, I’d probably remember it. I remember most of the great concepts in the One Show books before the book became one huge encyclopedia of everything out there. Quick, can anyone out there come up with a great campaign that’s currently running ON ANY MEDIUM?
Gotta love that raw emotion. Digital, you are so good. What did we do before you?
For those still in the denial stage, take a look at R/GA’s Nike+. It is not the work of an art director/copywriter team. To put it in proper perspective, it is the digital equivalent of Doyle Dane Bernbach’s seminal Think Small ad. I would argue that it is the most important work done by any creative agency—traditional or digital—in the past ten years. Listen to what Goodby’s Director of Digital Strategy Gareth Kay has to say on the matter. In traditional advertising terms, a committee created this. In the post digital age, it’s referred to as a cross-discipline team.
I think the problem lies in the fact that the great concept traditionalists are looking for is no longer a smart headline. It’s not a visual solution. Frankly, it’s not a message at all. The great concept is now an experience. To quote Gareth Kay, it is an idea that does. We need to stop using conventions we are familiar with to place constraints (or express our denial) on the emergence of new forms of communication and engagement. Read what Faris Yakob, Chief Innovation Officer at MDC Partners has to say about our new digital reality:
The emergence of a new media system is typified by a period of transposition, where the behavioural grammar of the previous system remains dominant. The first television shows were radio shows with people talking directly into camera. The first films were stageplays that had been filmed. And the first marketing forays online took what we knew about media and branding from broadcast media and applied it to a whole new space.
But digital is different.
Digital is not a channel. It’s a suite of platforms, channels and tactics that will, ultimately subsume its parents entirely.
Amen. All the denial in the world will not change this new reality.
This assault on the 2-person creative team is really becoming annoying. Two smart, talented creatives can take a business problem and develop an idea that addresses/solves it better than any other number. Then that idea can be executed appropriately in all the media.
What a dumb, misleading headline. Any agency that devalues its creative team does so at its own peril. Who’s going to create the um…creative? AE’s and coders?
Harsh. But I get where it’s coming from. I get it better than you think. For over 10 years, I regularly logged 70 hour weeks in the pursuit of the big idea. Some of those ideas can be found in The One Show and Communication Arts Advertising and Design annuals. It’s harder than hell to do great work. It takes a combination of talent and grind. And I would never suggest that traditional advertising is a) dead b) irrelevant or c) unnecessary.
I think a lot of the anger that traditional creatives feel is that suddenly, out of the blue, you’re supposed to think about web, and mobile, and social, and now ads for the iPad. You have smaller budgets, less time to do it, and you probably took a pay cut in the last two years. And now there’s something called crowdsourcing that everyone is enamored with.
Yes, I get it.
But the fact of the matter is, it’s not a two-person job anymore. Brands still need to create awareness. They need great TV spots. They need great print ads. It’s just that these messages should not be replicated in digital. They need to be translated (insert shameless plug here) into digital experiences and that takes a broader skill set—a.k.a. the bigger team—which is the point of Mr. Duffy’s article.
Unfortunately, when you start off with “Kiss your creative teams goodbye,” you’ll lose the very crowd you need to convert.
It usually goes something like this: We’ve hired some geeks and they have their own area. Ghost of Transformational Change, would you please leave us alone now?
Sure, add more people to the team. Copy and Art Creatives always benefit from more input. But don’t make the mistake of equating technical advice with true creative development.
Ummm, ouch. Another sentiment I often hear is that as long as you add a web designer and a developer, you’ve got it covered. The box has been checked. Yeah, digital, we’re down with that.
Let me straighten myself up in my chair as I type this.
Between @deziner, @adny and myself, we spend a lot of time here reading, thinking, and writing about digital. It’s difficult to keep up, because every damn day there is a new development. What does @anywhere mean? What is Facebook changing this week? Which Mashable article should I read? How are all the different platforms, properties, channels and touch points best used to create an experience?
Bargaining in the post digital age offers little value to your client. Yes, you may be able to build a site. Maybe even an app. Congratulations on assembling the modern mousetrap. Now the question is, did you just spend all your client’s money on a trap for under the kitchen sink when the mice are actually in the pantry?
Of course, some in the industry are ready to wave the white flag:
Interesting article. I agree print advertising is dying, it is pretty apparent that people are cutting costs, and investing those funds into online marketing.
Honestly, I’m not sure that anything is dying. But it’s definitely evolving. There’s less to feel down about and more to be excited about due to the endless new opportunities that lie ahead of us. How can you watch the Wired approach to storytelling on the iPad and not be inspired? Print isn’t dead. It’s about to be reborn.
The media universe is expanding, and that reality includes consumers who now expect not only to be part of the conversation, but active members of the storytelling process. As creatives, have we lost control? Or is the cavalry finally arriving?
A month ago, I sat in the front row as Edward Boches gave a presentation during which he described himself as an “advertising refugee.” Yesterday, he posted this superb article on assembling and cultivating the new creative team. I had started writing this article a week ago, and planned on ending it with a reference to Edward Boches, and damned if he didn’t write the perfect conclusion for me. This is just one of many gems from his article:
So what do we make if we don’t make stories? Experiences. Experiences that earn attention, invite participation, inspire co-creation, provide utility and inherently generate more content.
Bravo, sir. That’s Friday Morning Bacon material. Rather than “kissing your creative team goodbye,” it offers positive ways to embrace the challenge that lies ahead for us all.
Please, go read it. Then be open to change, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and always be eager to grow. We’re a smart bunch of people. Together we can deal with this.