Re: Today’s Creative Director, BBH’s Kevin Roddy gets it 90 percent right
I give Kevin Roddy a lot of credit for coming out and declaring that creative directors might actually be clueless when it comes to creating ideas for the post digital age.
In a guest column in Ad Age, Roddy suggests that traditional CD’s may still know a great idea when they see it, but he questions whether they can inspire or conceive complex digital ideas if their real comfort zone is in the media of TV, print and radio.
BBH New York’s CCO goes on to suggest that advertising creative directors whose experience comes from old media story telling should “admit that they don’t know enough about technology and start asking for help.
“Take down the walls and ask other people for suggestions about how to make the work better,” he smartly suggests.
I’m in total agreement with everything Kevin says. But I might go one step further. Knowing how most traditional CDs, writers and art directors work, I can confirm that there’s still a tendency among many to generate ad “ad idea” first and then go seek out their digital counterparts who might “make the work better,” to use Kevin’s words. In fact plenty of creative technologists will tell you that the question they usually get is, “Can you build this?” When the question they want to be asked is “What should we build?”
Kevin’s right that those of us who grew up on the traditional side of the business need help with the new complexities of technology. But we should make sure we get that help before we have an idea.
In fact we should be aggressively and proactively learning as much as we can about what’s possible with mobile, geo, APIs, social media and the very latest technology before we or anyone on our team closes the door to go and concept. Better yet, the people we concept with should be the techies themselves – creative technologists, UX professionals, social media enthusiasts.
I once had a CD tell me that he didn’t really need to know technology because, “No matter what I think up there’ll be someone who’ll know how to build it.” True, but my question back to him was, “But if you knew what was actually possible, wouldn’t you think up even more interesting ideas?”
Thanks again to Kevin for admitting and reinforcing what we all need to do. Let’s just make sure we get the help he recommends first. Then we can brief teams, look at ideas, and know we’ve picked the best one.
And now a comment from the other 10%.
It's been my experience for over ten years now that those with the "technical" expertise (programmers) are like OZ.
They don't want to to "Look behind the curtain" New developments in pre-designed interactive executions will only prove to make the "technical expertise" not such an obstacle. The technical part of what we have in our tool box is no different than all the traditional media. If it's a great idea, a truly great idea, people will find a way to execute against it. Surround yourself with smart people who look for creative solutions to problems and you'll get results. I completely disagree with the notion that CD's just "know a great idea when they see it". Good creative directors set the tone for what is expected creatively. They guide and inspire. The day that all clients are fully integrated in the web, and they're all blogging, and they're all, "SEO'd" What will be the difference? Great ideas executed flawlessly will.
The only part I disagree with in his statements is that traditional CDs should u00e2u0080u009cadmit that they donu00e2u0080u0099t know enough about technology and start asking for help." I don't like that because he makes it a technology thing, which 9 times out of 10 it's not. 5 years ago, in the days of microsites and gimmicky techy ideas, it did matter but not anymore. Now it's about understanding the digital social ecosystem, and has very little to do with technology.
jkretch Jordan, not sure I'm in 100 agreement. You do need a sense of technology, APIs, etc in order to think about what's possible with a particular platform.
"...the digital community; they are more welcoming than anyone. Itu00e2u0080u0099s an over reaction on the part of traditional agencies that panic."
Not everyone is like yourself Edward. Often people get to a point where they think they do not need to keep learning. And that is a sad state of affairs. As a CD I would think the object is utilize all available marketing platforms and technologies to best advantage and return on investment. And with every company having unique products/services/revenues/resources there is never a one size fits all or a 'Do this because this is exactly what we did at the last place I worked'
But as Darwin would state it, there are eager younger folks gunning for your job and no job is safe ever, even in good times. Is the Creative Director much different than the head of R&D at a consumer facing business? I personally don't think so.
I think one of the big issues in the past was nothing but pure ego. For a lot of accomplished, award winning creatives it was too demeaning to start over and be a newbie. Same could be said for Twitter and social, which is why so many ad types were so late to the game. My attitude is WTF? Stop believing your own PR anyway and just get out there, figure it out, make some mistakes and learn the shit. Ain't that hard, really. And it's fun to start over.
Totally agree. I'm a writer by background and I've never hesitated to go to an AD for advice, input, leadership, etc. Same goes for broadcast productions. And on and on. So why the hell would I hesitate to go to a digital native/creative technologist? It's how you learn, it's how you make the work better, more relevant. The hesitation comes from, I think, a perceived witch hunt for those who are late to the digital party or digital immigrants. Many traditional agencies are in the process of throwing a lot of babies out with a lot of bathwater. To state, categorically, that those of a certain age or with a certain resume are, by definition, not qualified to work in the New World, is wrong, wrong, wrong. Good ideas are still good ideas. It's how they come to life and go out into the world. And, yes, to your post above, the thinking can't happen after the ideas are formed. It's got to be organic and inextricably linked.
Definitely true. I have seen lots of traditional creatives become great conceptual digital creatives. And anyone over 30 started somewhere else. Interestingly the witch hunt, if there is one, doesn't come from the digital community; they are more welcoming than anyone. It's an over reaction on the part of traditional agencies that panic. Though there are some stubborn, resistant old media types (fewer these days for sure) and the fact is they need to get with it or move on.
Excellent clarification, Edward. Thank you. And I totally agree. I most certainly didn't mean to imply that "making the work better" only occurs after the idea is formed. My intent (obviously badly articulated but, hey, I'm just a writer) was as you suggest, "making the work better" today happens before ideas are formulated... and then continues through execution. Today's ideas are much more complex and need far more collaboration and different kinds of creative minds to create and develop. So, yes, what I meant to say is that "making the work better" needs to happen by seeking help early, as well as often.
Again, massive thanks for the clarification.
I figured, but if I gave you 100 percent I'd have nothing to write. I'm sure that you find all kinds of little glitches in the process. The only solution that I see, and I don't see it often enough, is when content, design, UX, tech and even media somehow all work together as the new creative team, thinking about a consumer's relationship to content, media, technology and community as well as to the brand or product. Still, nothing beats a brilliant, never seen it before, attention getting idea. But stuff like Target's show last week, or Nokia's directional sign, Brammo's Obama gift, or even Hello Ladies on Twitter and Youtube don't happen when art directors and copywriters sit alone together behind a closed door.
Agree, agree. But isn't the traditional agency structure itself partially to blame? Agencies are built (operationally and financially) to produce a fairly defined set of things. Too many ideas outside that range cuts into agency profit. Right? Don't we also need to look at how this structure can be changed to one where broader, less limited approaches are encouraged not discouraged?
There seems to be a bit of a chasm to cross here. From what I've seen there are two sources of failure: 1) comes from an idea that was born out of old media (as you pointed out) and 2) new media that is born without an idea. #2 fails harder than #1 but I do agree somewhat with u00e2u0080u009cBut if you knew what was actually possible, wouldnu00e2u0080u0099t you think up even more interesting ideas?u00e2u0080u009d
I often relate to musicians, especially guitar players. If you know more than 3 cords the song can be more interesting, however, (and this is a biggie) if you're limited to a G-C-D progression you just might create some of the best music you've ever made.
Worked for Neil Young ;-) Anyway, not sure it's a perfect analogy. Because you can still go and make the best TV and print in the world, knowing those chords, but will anyone be listening?
As an amateur songwriter and hack guitarist, I used to think that the less you knew the better chances you had of coming up with a killer rock, but I don't believe that anymore. Yes, the world is rich with virtuoso players who can't write good songs, but it's not because they're virtuoses, they just have a taste level different from the us mere mortals.
You never know enough, much less too much.
Also very true. I was thinking more along the lines of Ernie Schenck's point in his book "The Houdini Solution". Sometimes the best ideas come from imposed limits.
Still, I can't agree more that you can never have enough knowledge from which to draw. It's going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out. Mobile computing is making my head spin; I'm not sure any of us really know what's going to happen.
Nicely put, Edward. I had the same reaction. We know the first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is doing something about it. If you truly want to understand the space, you have to participate. Explore the communities, get involved, and become a part of the culture.
It's about making Digital a partner and not a vendor. You're dead on with bringing Digital into the fold up-front rather than asking for the execution to be carried out. Digital can and will help shape the execution.
To me, this quote says it all:
u00e2u0080u009cBut if you knew what was actually possible, wouldnu00e2u0080u0099t you think up even more interesting ideas?u00e2u0080u009d
It amazes me that in an industry of ideas, Luddites abound -- at the top no less!
Intelligent post & smart response. Couldn't agree more.
"In fact we should be aggressively and proactively learning as much as we can about whatu00e2u0080u0099s possible with mobile, geo, APIs, social media and the very latest technology before we or anyone on our team closes the door to go and concept."
Where do you suggest they start, particularly in regards to learning to read & understand APIs?
I think the real answer for a non-tech CD is to befriend at creative technologist, who should be part of the creative department and involved with all new campaign initiatives. I am not technical, but know enough to imagine what might be possible, who things can be mashed up and incorporated into different executions and also to constantly ask the tech guys for examples. Hope that helps.