Yesterday I ran into old colleague, now an art director at another agency. Here’s how he greeted me. “Hey, I heard you’re no longer creative. You’ve gone 100 percent digital and social.”
Now, I am under the impression that if you lose 30 pounds you may no longer be fat. Or that if you convert to Judaism you may no longer be Catholic. Or that if you have a sex change you may no longer be the same gender you used to be.
But I had no idea that if you went all digital and social that it meant giving up your creativity. Heck, for a moment I had actually believed that digital and social was the new creative.
Sure it’s possible, maybe even likely, that my encounterist employed the word as a noun rather than an adjective. But it was, nevertheless, a reminder that in our business we continue to apply restrictive labels far too liberally. Labels that affect how we think of each other.
Want a creative idea? You go to the “creatives.” Need a digital creative idea? Seek out the “digital creatives.” If it’s a social media idea you’re after, well then, find yourself a social media person.
We do the same with companies. If you’re an ad agency, you can’t be a digital agency. If you’re a digital agency, you can’t be very good at branding. If you’re a digital production company you can’t do digital strategy.
Certainly there are times when specialization, either as a company or an individual, positions us more strongly or enables us to differentiate ourselves in competitive pitches.
But in general labels holds us back. Worse yet, they become self-fulfilling. It’s hard to grow if you’re nothing but a boutique. Tough to get invited into the creative brainstorming if you’re merely the strategist. Challenging to win a digital client if you’re a traditional agency.
If I were to be labeled anything my preference would be someone who defies labels. Is that possible?