Short term thinking is hampering the creative work of agencies, who can learn new things from ordinary Africans who are innovating. This was one of the messages which came out of Grey’s recent Africa Rise event held in Johannesburg.
“There’s a creative spirit on the African continent that is very alive, as a result of people having to work around infrastructural problems … This has bred an incredible spirit of innovation,” says Fran Luckin, chief creative officer for Grey JHB. “And there’s multiple theories about creative constraints, where it is posited that constraints, shortcomings and lack actually fuels creativity because people have to find a way around it.”
Her message to agencies is to keep working at ideas, even if they fail in the short term, as this is what African entrepreneurs – who face multiple disappointments in their journey – are doing.
A closer connection between media and creative agencies
One of the problems hindering creativity, particularly in creative agencies, is that often clients approach their media agency first who then gives a “must follow” chase list to the creative agency. This restricts what the latter can do and how creative they can be. Luckin would like to see a closer partnership between the two agencies or involve everyone in the initial discussions.
A changing agency model
Clients in today’s world are demanding more measurement of and value for their spend, forcing agencies to redefine the value equation for clients.
“The number one thing clients are asking today is ‘what is my return on investment?’ They want to ensure that everything agencies do, regardless of the creativity, media outlet or the spend, they want to understand how they can back that out in terms of their investment,” explains Michael Houston, worldwide chief executive officer of the Grey Group.
He identifies two other factors currently impacting the work of agencies. Firstly, clients want speed, so agencies have to move at the speed of consumers, who are moving much faster today. “Agencies must create communications that move at the speed of culture,” he says.
Secondly, opening the aperture on creativity and delivering against all the different platforms and creative outlets that agencies have is crucial. It’s about the entire marketing landscape and delivering against that.
Houston’s top four tips to agencies:
- Ensure that creativity is at the centre of everything you do.
- Never lose sight that you are representatives of your clients. You need to truly understand the business they are in, the problems they face and ultimately come up with solutions on their behalf. It isn’t about the agency”.
- Listen to what the clients want. “When you’re trying to create a new relationship and build trust with a client, it’s not about the agency talking, it’s about absorbing the client’s problems and listening”.
- Always be true to what you as an agency are. “Don’t try to create what you think the client wants, be true to who you are”.
One of Houston’s goals is to create a more borderless organisation and he sees the creative hub in South Africa playing a much larger role in Grey Group’s global operations in the near future.