Has Marketing forgotten about creativity?


I recently started at Flock Associates, leading the Creative, Content and Production specialism here. We’re a Marketing Transformation company, and as part of this, we have a fundamental belief in the power of ideas and creativity. As the face of marketing continues to transform, those who win will be the people that leverage new ways of working to liberate creativity.

However, our sense is that today, marketing sees creativity often falling way down the consideration list. This observation is based on the general level of creativity in communications that we all see, but more so by the conversations that we regularly have with clients and agencies. A symptom of this is that creativity is being marginalised in many agency pitches – of which we see a lot – and sometimes, barely gets a mention or is relegated to an afterthought.

Why is this happening? 

We need to recognise that marketing has changed (and will continue to do so):

·      Marketing data and technology are increasingly becoming the predominant drivers of companies’ marketing activity

·      Brands that need to respond in real time to meet customer expectations are increasing their in-house skillsets, including creative capabilities

·      The need for companies to find ways they can deliver more with less will continue – businesses may well explore in-housing and decoupling as potential means to the end

In short, it feels like these dynamics are impacting both clients and agencies, which ultimately reduces their collective focus on creativity.

But (and it is a huge ‘but’) if companies are really going to engage with their customers emotionally and not just rationally (as the most successful brands do), they must do so with creativity and ideas at their heart. Yes – the forms that creativity take will need to evolve and not just rely on traditional film (although certain brands like Nike continue to show its power and value when done right), but the ability to make people smile, laugh, cry, intrigue or desire something must not be forgotten.

Whilst this may be crucial for brands, it’s existential for the agency world. The challenges faced by agencies have been well documented over the last few years and it’s absolutely clear that they’ve been slow to respond to the changing requirements of their clients’ – consequently, dissatisfaction is rife on both sides. Even so, creative agencies still have plenty to offer, most importantly creativity.

So whilst marketers will continue to drive data centricity in everything they do, agencies must now embrace ways to ensure creativity is applied to the opportunities that this delivers. After all creativity is the single thing that makes agencies special and valuable, and the combination of creativity and excellent data is incredibly potent.

Currently we tend to see two responses from agencies (neither of which will deliver what is required):

·      A total focus on persuading clients that they know how to handle the data and can churn out one-to-one communications efficiently, or

·      A belief that client “obsession” with data somehow kills their ability to be creative

Neither reaction is a sustainable position – they will simply continue to create an unhealthy tension between client and agency worlds.

Naturally, there are lots of exceptions to this on both agency and client-side, but what I’ve just described is a fair representation of the conversations we here at Flock have with our clients.

That’s why when we work with brands, whether it be on helping to build the optimal ecosystem, run their pitch process, build their in-house capabilities or look at their model for production, we always think about how creativity can be liberated. That means looking beyond how ecosystems are structured, instead looking at how teams work together – ensuring that: clarity of scope; proper briefing processes; a streamlined client decision making process and a culture where creativity can flourish, amongst other things, are carefully considered and put in place.

When assessing whether we can help clients we tend to ask 5 questions:

1.     Does your team really know what great looks like?

2.    Is your agency ecosystem set up to stimulate ideas and creativity?

3.    Do you give your agency partners ambitious, clear & concise briefs?

4.    Do you provide timely, aligned, clear and constructive feedback throughout the creative development process?

5.    Do you have a clear and streamlined decision making process which can allow creativity to flourish?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions – get in touch! We’d love to help lead your business’s Marketing Transformation.

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