These are interesting times for the creative industry.
Traditional hotshot agencies are protecting their creative turf and talent pool with statements like BBH’s Sir John Hegarty that the in-house model is for “boring creatives”.
Big agencies are watching their bottom lines get squeezed into oblivion (read Madison Ave Manslaughter) and responding with aggressive resizing (Ogilvy) and mergers (Wunderman Thompson).
Old holding companies like WPP are streamlining to become a “creative transformation company”, while new holding companies like S4 Capital and You and Mr Jones are built on the idea that data drives creativity.
Not to mention management consultancies like Accenture who have seen the value of delivering creative assets, not just business services.
Organisations of all sorts are experimenting with in-house creative services, or subcontracted units of agencies, or communities of creative collectives, with various degrees of success.
The CMO of RBS has said that clients “can’t do creative communication”, yet 78% of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in 2018 had an in-house agency.
So, are they all failing at their jobs?
With so many opinions about what is and isn’t creative, who is right?
After 18 years as a creative at Ogilvy and adam&eveDDB I co-founded a consultancy called Truth & Spectacle to see what creativity in business could become.
A big part of my journey outside of the traditional creative industry has been working with an award winning tech company called what3words.
Over the last two years what3words has successfully scaled up to create most of its marketing, brand design and product design in-house; and we’ve had the same debates everyone else is having about the quality of work, striking the balance between pragmatism and belief, attracting and keeping talent, outsourcing and in-housing.
How has a tech company like what3words become good at creating?
Early on the management team understood the impact of storytelling on the company’s value and sales, and invested in their own people to improve that skill.
There’s a studio but there is no “creative department”, creativity is the responsibility of everyone in the business.
what3words is confident in telling its core story through everything it does, whether it’s through products, sales conversations, video content, PR, or event posters.
And finally, we’re comfortable challenging our best ideas and experiment constantly to be fit for purpose.
When management consultancy McKinsey looked at the correlation between creativity and financial performance they found that more creative firms outperform their peers, so it seems to be more important than ever.
I believe we could do with less narrow minded rhetoric about who owns creativity and concentrate more on how we’re going to create.
In these interesting times it’ll take open minds to help the industry and discipline flourish in every organisation.
What do you think?