In 2010 the International IBM CEO survey came out with a surprise finding;it found creativity was the number one characteristic that businesses looked for in their leadership teams. That’s a big deal. As the ad industry we get excited quickly, but hold your horses! It’s not the same as putting our 20-something trained creatives at the front of the pitch.
Creativity in the future of marketing and advertising is a far more intelligent form of creativity. If I had to let our industry down for a moment with one comment it would be this: our level of creativity is myopically focused on communication, and specific communication channels that we are ‘ok’ with. We’re ok with TV, press, and radio. We’re ok with design as communication, and very recently we became ok with digital platforms.
But are we ok with creativity for new business directions, expanded product offerings, and accessing data to uncover deep customer insights that lead to innovation? Are we ok with creativity for technology, creativity for HR, creativity for leadership matters, creativity for biofeuls?
These latter forms of creativity need one thing that we are so reticent to do. They need us to think outside of our paradigms. Creative people don’t like to think outside of their creative boxes! That may sound like a contradiction in terms but it’s so real. I’ve worked with enough highly talented creative people over 20 years to know they can be brilliantly creative within their areas of communication expertise, and miserably uncreative when pushed outside of them.
So here’s the kicker: can our highly gifted creative people in the ad industry stretch their ability into new realms, because this is what business needs today and in the future?
Let’s call it multi-industry creativity. I believe the ad industry has the best grouping of employees to solve some of businesses biggest challenges, if only we are bold enough to tackle them, smart enough to learn again, resilient enough to push through our boundaries, and crazy enough to maybe, just maybe, tackle the forefront of where our 21st century marketplace is headed.
Since the beginning of time (ok, just the ad industry timeline) our types of companies have been led by creative minds. Actually let me qualify that a little – I think there have been very insightful, even strategic, thinkers in all the most successful companies since the ’60s but they have never been referred to by any other classification except creative. So we have not had highly prized strategists until five or so years ago.
The result of the past 40-50 years is that agencies and advertising as an industry have been creative-led. Creativity and creative awards are the heros in our companies. But here is the change heading into the next 40 years: we will see more and more strategic-led agencies and eventually we will start to breed strategists who love and value creativity. At the moment there is still a rub between strategists and creatives, which is a natural thing because a generation of strategists have not emerged who have worked long enough in creative environments to tune themselves into how creatives ‘work’.
So creatives do not really value strategists (I am generalising to make the point clear) but its true in most cases.
The demand for trained strategists will cause a new breed of agency person to emerge, not only in the rank and file, but at leadership levels. CEO’s who are strategy-led will in turn shift our entire industry towards this. These future-orientated advertising agencies will be known by another name. They will come out the ad industry, but they will rename this industry – to the alarm of the creatives.
What will these new companies be called, and what will our industry eventually become known as? I doubt it will be called the strat industry, but surely new names and titles will come to the fore that will add value to the global marketplace and breathe life into diverse companies and certainly…way beyond communication.
Neil Hart is the chairman of Boomtown.
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