Dump the creative department

I think there is a simple solution for ad agencies struggling with digital transformation: dump the creative department. The idea of having a creative department is incredibly outdated. It had a purpose in the world of mass marketing, once. The strategy department looked for consumer insights and brand insights, and after that, the creative department translated these into creative communication.

When an agency sets up a creative department, it is explicitly communicating that this is where creativity happens – and nowhere else. Not with the strategists, not with the designers, not with the developers. And that is just the problem. Because, now more than ever, we can’t solve our client’s marketing problems with original communication alone. Sometimes the answer is in a smart technology, sometimes in a clever tactic, often in an interface idea – Uber and Airbnb are nothing more than clever interfaces – and sometimes in a behavioural idea.

A few years ago, when the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s asked their agency AMV to run a campaign in order to grab market share back from the competition, a clever strategist saw in the data that if you could encourage existing customers to buy one more item, you could generate one billion in extra revenue per year. The campaign ¨Try something different¨ was the consequence of this stroke of genius.

Edward de Bono, the leading academic in the area of creativity, defines creativity as ¨asking silly questions in order to find new and unexpected answers¨. So that’s what a good agency is good at. We ask ¨silly questions¨ to find surprising new answers to our client´s problems. This can only be a success if all parties accept that creativity is the way that will get us there.

Let’s dump the creative department. Let’s call it the style department. Because even the cleverest idea… where would it be without style?


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