advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Creatives need not apply.

There was a recent article in Forbes from John Dragoon, Senior VP/CMO of Novell. In it, he offers a client perspective on the issue over *fun* in advertising. The focus of it questioned creativity’s role in business:

My view? Grow up. Business is not about creative self-actualization for its own sake. [...] Don't get me wrong, creativity is perhaps the key attribute most needed and desired to address our 21st century business challenges. [...] But this attitude of: "it" (advertising and marketing) is just not fun anymore or it's not worth my creative genius is short-sighted.

Emphasis, mine. That second point is a common refrain heard about prima donnas in any creative field, and one echoed in some of the comments on the piece. They seem to reveal another agenda lurking below the surface. Maybe they were burned by a bad experience working with an agency, who knows. While it’s a valid point to say that some creatives don’t work and play well with others, it’s also a separate issue.

This is about the inherent nature of creativity in advertising and business. Right-side vs. left-side brain type stuff.

Creativity has to be defined for both client and agency. I don’t doubt that there are people in companies who find *creative* ways to save money. However, shipping just one more case of pencils per truckload to save thousands of dollars, while admirable, isn’t quite what advertising creatives focus on.

They get people to do things, and that requires a more fluid approach to thinking that doesn’t always line up neatly in an Excel doc. There are a lot of What if? scenarios you go through because it’s about questioning everything you get from a client.

Business is black and white. It adds up or it doesn’t. It makes money or it loses money. Group think takes over and consensus building rules.

Creatives don’t want to grab their ball and go home. To parasteal from Shawn: They’re about business—they’re just not businessmen. They love challenges. Difficult, fun, whatever it is. That’s what you live for. Give them a problem and they’ll figure it out. It’s not an issue of fun as much as frustration with a client model that hasn’t changed significantly.

It’s a model that’s not based on fostering creative solutions the way creatives define them. If clients are annoyed, they need to first take a look at their own industry structure. I started by assuming that maybe experiences with agencies have turned off some clients, but it’s a two-way street.

Business is full of marketing directors mishandling the agency resources at their disposal while agencies bend over backward to please them. As Harry Webber points out, a fundamental change is needed in all departments on the client side, similar to how ad agencies have had to face the changes they’re going through now. A few brands like Zappos, are.

Some creatives are moving on to what they see as better challenges in places that foster the development of things. What could be more of a business concept than that? Why would you stay in a situation that hinders a larger vision? Still, agencies have had to deal with their share of client problems since, forever. Budget cuts. Indecision. Lack of information. Agendas. Outdated thinking when it comes to mass media.

On second thought, maybe business and advertising are closer than you think.

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