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.

23 comments
KeithBorshak
KeithBorshak

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.

jkretch
jkretch moderator

The only part I disagree with in his statements is that traditional CDs should “admit that they don’t 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.

Thom
Thom

"...the digital community; they are more welcoming than anyone. It’s an over reaction on the part of traditional agencies that panic."

Exactly.

Howie G
Howie G

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.

Thom
Thom

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.

scottRcrawford
scottRcrawford

Who knew glue would be so important? Enjoying this.

Kevin Roddy
Kevin Roddy

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.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd

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?

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

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 “But if you knew what was actually possible, wouldn’t you think up even more interesting ideas?”

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.

Michael Tabtabai
Michael Tabtabai

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.

Keith Stoeckeler
Keith Stoeckeler

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.

Jeff Shattuck
Jeff Shattuck

To me, this quote says it all:

“But if you knew what was actually possible, wouldn’t you think up even more interesting ideas?”

So true!

It amazes me that in an industry of ideas, Luddites abound -- at the top no less!

Lauren
Lauren

Intelligent post & smart response. Couldn't agree more.

One question:

"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."

Where do you suggest they start, particularly in regards to learning to read & understand APIs?