Last week Digiday asked a few industry folks to weigh in on the new creative team.
Is it changing from the still dominant AD/CW? Do technology, UX, design, development play a bigger role? The answer, of course, is that they should. That’s not to suggest we don’t need great writers and art directors. After all, TV spots aren’t going away.
This is a discussion that has been going on for a while as ad agencies struggle to remove themselves from the mindset that the answer to everything is an ad.
Too often agencies continue to throw writers and art directors, under the leadership of an advertising CD, at every problem.
But a look at the kinds of client assignments that now challenge agencies suggests that the problems are far bigger than that. As one of the comments on the post reminds us, clients are more often than not looking for “deep re-framings of their business.”
Winston Binch, partner and chief digital officer at Deutsch LA, advises, “If you’re doing a product or platform lead with invention, UX and a designer.” Let the traditional team know they are playing a secondary role. Why? So the right criteria get used in evaluating the work and to keep it more iterative rather than linear.
I think agencies need to think about two basic fundamentals. The team and who’s on it. But also the skill sets of the individual members.
Regarding the team:
You can’t have a rigid definition of a creative team. It has to be customized to the job and assignment.
You may have to change perspective of who makes decisions? A CD? Or a digital strategist? (Nothing worse than a CD applying ad-like criteria to evaluate digital utility.)
The process may move from linear (TV production) to iterative (digital) so you also need people on the team who have a “mindset” and commitment to A/B testing, prototyping, etc.
Timing has changed. Real time content is a given. Fast and good is a necessity. So you need a team mindset that embraces thinking fast and making faster.
Regarding the individual on the team:
It’s already a dated term, but work to become T-shaped. An expert at something but aware of exactly how all the other roles — tech, social, design, UX — come into play.
Be comfortable with technology. Use it, play with it. If you can’t write code, at least know how to build a following on social media, what can or can’t be done with the technology in a smartphone, how API’s work, even how to manipulate the code in the back end of WordPress or Squarespace.
Get comfortable partnering with technologists, not just traditional creative people. The less scary it becomes the easier it is to invent with new platforms.
Don’t assume that what you know now will be sufficient a year or two from now.
If you need a hint at what’s coming, simply take a look at what big brands are asking for in their call for entries in award shows. It’s a place where they can not only experiment, but reveal what they’re thinking about longer term.
At Boston University where I teach a number of creative courses, I assemble five-person teams that consist of a digital strategist, art director, designer, writer and maker. The assignments range from those similar to the Unilever call referenced above to full-blown content and utility strategies and campaigns for emerging brands and products, to solving problems with new inventions rather than ad campaigns. What I notice is this. If you ask creative people for something other than an ad, they’ll come back with something far more interesting, relevant and useful. Try it in your agency.