Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Is It Time For A New Type Of Creative Team?

This guy, Nick Law, thinks it is.

He is the chief creative officer of digital agency R/GA, and he expounds his view in this article in Creativity Online.

Nick's big complaint is about digital being added on at the end of the process. His solution? Add a digital person or tech person to the standard creative team.

"The copywriter and art director should now be a part of a flat, flexible and modular creative team that understands technology and how the customer relates to it"

But more worryingly:

"This new team... do not wear backward baseball caps and high five each other in the hall"

What? No high-fiving... ever?

"Some of them have food in their beard. Some of them have never heard of Cannes. Some are women who smoke pipes. This is big tent creativity. It's big enough for designers, technologists and, yes, storytellers. Out of this tent will march the next creative revolution"

I don't know, Nick. You're a funny writer, but it's hard enough already for Scowling A.D. and I to find time for idea-generation together without having to schedule a woman with a beard into the mix.

Yes let's have sessions with tech people, just like we have sessions with planners. Why not? That's already happening here.

But they don't need to be 'in the team'.

Actually, it's a bit of a myth that ideas are the product of a creative team.

I have all my ideas on my own. So does everybody. After all, an idea can only 'appear' in one person's head, right?

The real question is... while I am working on a particular brief, who is putting stuff into my head, and thus shaping the kind of idea that comes out?

The most important person doing that (as indeed I hope I do for him) is my partner.

Then come the CD, the planner, the account handler, the client, my friends and family, taxi drivers, even the cleaning lady if I am really having trouble cracking a brief.

And of course digital shouldn't be added on at the end of the process. It only is for you, Nick, because you work in a digital-only agency, and you probably do get stuff 'passed down' to you. Just disband your agency and then you won't have that problem.

And for any clients reading this - the way to get your regular agency to come up with ideas which work in digital as well as 'traditional' is simply to ask us to.

Any decent creative team can do the full range, from a radio-only tactical brief to a big media-neutral brand idea.

And we know how to use the internet, you know. I'm using it right now.


Anonymous said...

I think his general point about greater integration still stands; and there's a big difference between knowing how to use the Internet and coming up with good digital communication.

But no, they don't need to be 'in the team'. A good idea is a good idea wherever and however you look at it.

Rachel said...

a creative is a creative, they should be able to come up with ideas that expand into the digital media the only person who then needs to participate is someone who can actually tell you if its physically possible and then they can create it.

Thats what we've been told anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

That's ridiculous. And a waste of money. Send the team to learn digital skills, and that's it. Just like when TV came on the scene, creatives had to learn to work with that.

It's so typical of this business to add more fluff and postions rather than upskill. More types of creatives, more types of planners, blah blah blah.
The creative team is a dynamic that works very well. Better than one person, and better than three. It's better - cheaper, more efficient, more beneficial to the end product - to keep key people generalists and bring on specialists as needed.

Digital is merely one of many mediums, albeit more technical than many. But all you need is a creative team that can think laterally and they can apply thinking across the board.

Let's not confuse the cart for the horse, which is what always seems to happen.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 6:09

spot on.

Anonymous said...

uh, sounds awful. more cooks to fuck up the soup?

Brokenblogger said...

Maybe Nick is not right. But hey, it's been too many years with the same formula. Don't you think?

Damiano said...

Agree with 6.09 too. You’re just creating ideas that mesh with new tech and work on new platforms. Doesn’t take much to understand how we now interact with it all, on and offline, but it is essential for any creative from now on. We all have mobiles and computers so that's a given but it's noting the social effects of this interactivity and engagement which is a new skill. Then taking those insights and pushing the boundaries with ideas which is where maybe a creative technologist would come into the mix with CW and AD.

It’s only a matter of time before; if not already, that all creatives have digital feathers in their cap and as you say you just need a meeting with a specialist from all the new digital areas, whether it’s WOM, experience design or social media or techie to put you up to speed and give the digital shops a run for their money when it comes to branded utilities or branded content ideas.

Anonymous said...

ok scamp, so a client comes to you and asks you for a microsite and an online comms campaign with some digital outdoor thrown in. You really think you can deliver? Lynx tells me you can't, at least not yet. But give it a few years and you and your teams will slowly learn the skills.

Above the line is certainly catching up but the problem is you're not thinking in a digital landscape, I don't think that most of your teams actually want to. It's way out of your comfort zone, which is a shame because it shouldn't be. It's quite funny watching you learn though.

Anyhow what you don't need is a third member to be digital guy. What a nightmare, it simply won't work.

The best creatives these days work across all media. There just aren't very many of them around. But that will change, and when it does the marketplace will be a much more interesting place because of it.

Anonymous said...

we tried this 'threesome' thing at fallon ages ago. in that case it was with a designer as part of the team. despite the best intentions of all involved, and as close as anyone could get to cultural integration, it just didn't work. there's a built in rhythm to the way people work together, and there's a dynamic between two people that just isn't the same between three. i would agree with the comments that suggest a well-educated, well-briefed, open-minded creative team is the best answer. one day soon, all this on-line/offline distinction is going to go away, anyway.

Anonymous said...

it's what digital agencies are going to do anyway.

so bad luck dinosaurs.

Anonymous said...

ok anon 7.32, thanks for your words of wisdom. only kidding. the lynx work came from digital creatives but that's not important. creatives just want to come up with good ideas & you just want to talk about things like digital landscapes

Anonymous said...

i don't know of anyone in advertising who hasn't long twigged long ago that the world is changing.

similarly i don't know of anyone in advertising who wears baseball hats backwards and highfives each other in the corridors.

so i'm wondering who mr. law's writings are intended for. idiots? the elderly?

Oh, and I'm supposed to take advice from someone who puts THIS on the front page their website? i don't think so pal.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


J said...

CP+B in my opinion is still the only agency that 'gets it' when it comes to integrating online/offline.
I think they treat concepts as a whole and not just an excuse to stick visual feats in an ad (chain reactions, a symphony played with strings made of pubic hair, whatever)

Gorilla is a great ad but it's not great as a campaign idea. In fact it's a bit lazy. They could have done amazing things on line but they didn't, people did it for them. Lucky them.

So, do we need a third person? nope. Just better concepts.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

From the people I have met, i'd say most agencies get it. They just don't know how to convince anyone else that they get it... or how to make it work.

Any good creative is probably more than capable of understanding at least the outline scope of internet possibilities. If they can't then you probably need new creatives...

After all, they aren't called creatives because they sit there and do what they have done 200 times before. Unless it's Fallon. (joke)

Anonymous said...

agree with J. cpb is the only sizeable agency that uses all the media options optimally IMHO. in a routine manner.

also, i'm not a technical person, but not ever really understanding how a 35 mm movie camera works has never hampered me when creating TV ads.

i know what people are like. i know how to make them laugh and cry.

and you can't write no code for that bitches!

Anonymous said...

btw. love your new blog design. it's a delight for sore eyes. did you do it yourself? or was scowling AD at the controls. nice and crisp. sir hegarty would approve.

Anonymous said...

speaking as one of these "third persons" in a traditional agency, my observations would be a) a lot of ATL and even BTL trad creatives just aren't that interested and like the help to add a bit of digital nous to their thinking. b) a lot of ATL teams see digital as a good way to get tv ads they would never get signed off otherwise shot on a micro budget and released as a 'viral'. c) there are some teams who are great creatives and really get the digital medium but can't keep up with whats possible and so can't have an idea that would require a technology they don't know exists. In the case of c i've never known us have a chat about something and not come up with something exciting that wouldn't have happened if we weren't all there (and we're now winning the awards to prove it).

Anonymous said...

Integration, yes. Diluting what works, no.

You simply need a creative team who understands all the media available and how it works. It's that simple. Then you bring people on to help execute that concept across the board. Of course, they bring skills and ideas to the table, but too many cooks early on doesn't help anyone.

My partner and I have won major awards for our TV work. A director shot our idea. We've also won major awards for our interactive/digital work. A digital designer programed the flash.

They're both about the same thing - a big idea. If two people can do just fine as the go-to team, why pay for a third?

Hell, I think even one really talented creative can sometimes do the job.

Anonymous said...

Ha, what a stupid suggestion!

Direct and integrated teams have been working with (and in) digital for years without trouble. It's only you outdated ATL dinosaurs that struggle with this.

Hey, instead of just bringing in someone else to do your work, why not just exert a modicum of effort and learn it yourselves?

Ring, Ring...It's the future calling.

Anonymous said...

ring, ring? That was a bit cheesy, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of sense (and a little defensiveness) above. This debate feels about 4 years old, though. Even the most dinosaur-like of agencies has, or is trying to, 'get' digital. Not least as it earns money (which big agencies love, right?)

And the Lynx thing wasn't that bad, just a it dated.

Anonymous said...

anon 7.33 - does it work? 95% of atl work is truly awful and from what i see the genuinely interesting stuff is coming out of agencies like cpb and goodby as well as all the brazilian and swedish agencies like north kingdom, great works, farfar etc...all of which have a completely different structure to that which you hold dear...

Anonymous said...

There should be a representitive from the PR people in there too. And someone from media would be handy. And, hey I've just had a brilliant idea, why not add a research group to the mix so that ideas can be killed at birth rather than go through the rigmarole of having them
tweaked by the creative director,
tweaked by the planner,
tweaked by the account man, tweaked by the junior client, tweaked by the senior client, boarded up and only then shat on by the research group.
Streamlined you see?
*Quietly blubs into skinny, low foam, double de-caff, soya latte*

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we high five, should i be worried?

Creative Team

Anonymous said...

What I think Nick really is trying to say is that the industry need more 'non-creative' people in the mix. People like this: to fuck things up a bit.

Unknown said...

so let's see. nick tells us what to not look like, how not to behave and what fun parts we can forget about. sounds like a senior account dude handing out the house rules to his new assistant account exec chicks.

listen, you're right about digital being an afterthought. it should be part of the original equation when appropriate. but to think that I will forget about cannes and start wearing khakis or shave my beard is just like expecting me to show up at 9am or do my timesheets the same week. it's not going to happen and if that bothers you, then perhaps you should administrate an insurance company.

PH said...

anon 7.04
Agree with you. Can't see the problem with having a third party to expand, develop and advise on the concept. I don't think it makes me any less 'creative' because I don't understand (yet) the opportunities available to me in cyberspace, and want someone to do it for me.

Anonymous said...

Most 'traditional' agencies do get digital. I work for one populated with great digital creatives. The truth is we're not dinosaurs, that's just what specialist digital agencies want the world to think. A misconception they keep peddling for all they are worth. Once clients figure out what's going on, then we'll see who's the dinosaur.

Anonymous said...

Have tryed working with the cyber Digi boys at the start of the process before. Did they crack the big brand idea or endline? Did they f@*k!

Anonymous said...

Nick come across as a touch naïve, defensive and a little out of touch in the article. And his misunderstanding of what Bernbach's approach to advertising was is amazing.

Anonymous said...

scamp the blogs looking better today.

Just one thing, not sure about the italic: When you see me staring out the window, that's when I'm working?

Anonymous said...

This year CHI picked up more awards than any digital agency at the Revolution awards and won the Gran Prix. The idea was thought up by an above the line creative team and brought to life with a digital production company. Just like creating a telly ad.
It's not rocket science. It's just advertising.

Anonymous said...

When TV arrived TV only agencies started popping up. Are any still around?

Of course people like Bill Bernbach, David Olgivy, Mary Wells, Leo Burnett , George Lois and Carl Ally did drastically change advertising. But none of those agencies were TV only. The made their reputation with print ads like "lemon".

In fact it took at least 2 decades after the mass acceptance of television to start getting great spots like "snowplow".

This isn't to say that good digital agencies like R/GA won't stick around. They might well move in to more general advertising. Indeed I think R/GA has produced some spots.

Creatives have long worked in many different mediums. They can learn another. Now, we have to put the effort into learning something about some of the new aspects of digital, but it's not as though we have to learn how to say program with regular expressions or something.

Digital people love to take the attitude that others "don't get it." But you know what? It isn't that hard to get. And quite a few of us have got it, even if we can't fully build it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, here's an idea for a new type of creative team:

- Rates effectiveness over awards
- Understands business as well as people
- Presents ideas on-budget
- Takes feedback constructively
- Gets modern media

Anonymous said...

Anon 12.30

But isn't that because CHI actually understand what ideas are, and don't just write scripts and press ads like most ATL creatives....?

Anonymous said...

Great post. Gets people all excited.
Some more related fodder for discussion over here:
I'll get my coat....

Anonymous said...

R/GA produced the Nike+ campaign. And by all accounts they are crashing the awards shows with an even bigger stick next year.

It's got nothing to do with integration, or the role of digital in the marketing mix.

It's about creating new products for our clients, instead of advertising them.

Something which, sadly, most of us traditional teams are hopelessly unqualified to do....

Anonymous said...

>>>R/GA produced the Nike+ campaign.>>>

yes they did. but the client had the idea for the product. which was the real idea. that's what people were excited about. the idea of the product. not the interface.

it's bit like saying The Barbarian Group created subservient chicken. they didn't. CPB had the idea. TBG just produced it.

oh you crafty credit-stealing digiboyz! it's the idea that matters. anyone can produce a great idea. you'll learn eventually though, i'm sure.

Anonymous said...

....Digital people love to take the attitude that others "don't get it." But you know what? It isn't that hard to get. And quite a few of us have got it, even if we can't fully build it....

ha! so true. and can i just say that, having worked extensively in both traditional and digital, digital ain't all that. and you know why? i'll tell you. because advertising doesn't really belong online like it does on tv for example. the symbiotic relationship doesn't exist that did between tv and advertising. advertising is actively avoided and vilified. it's not welcome and it's not needed.

the net/net being that online your creative has to serve as programming. you have to attract your own audience. something that is seemingly lost on both digital and trad. creatives.

the "ooh let's do something a bit clever" approach isn't enough when nobody is listening or watching or even remotely caring.

which is why most online stuff sinks like a stone. it's hard out there for a pimp!

Anonymous said...

Digital agencies long to be the lead agencies they never will.

They're ghettos.

Unknown said...

nick is spot on that it's time to change agency models. your right in that a creative is a creative whatever media stream they swim in. but it's not true that techies aren't also creative, they have a far better grip of what's possible than you. using free blogging software and developing new ways for users to interact are worlds apart. the sooner creatives come down from their ivory towers and realise you can't meet every brief with a press ad and microsite the sooner you'll stop falling behind the likes of r/ga when it comes to breaking ground.

you can't deny that society has changed and how we interact with each other is more and more informed by computer interfaces. to dismiss it is to get left behind.

Anonymous said...

The only people that should be worried are the so called digital gurus. They've had it all their way for too long producing really average ideas and glossing over them with a bit of flash programming or taking credit for other peoples work because they've spent 2 days of binary code to make something move in a banner.

As soon as the real idea people come in they'll be back in their boxes producing work for others and everyone will forget digital agencies ever even existed.

Anonymous said...

ATL creatives work for traditional CDs. They might get it but the lazy traditional powers from above are just earning out their contracts to retirement. Why change now? Why take the risk? They do what they know and that's it. All it will take is more people like John Collins, new CD (from digital side) at Grey London to instigate the change.

Anonymous said...

The American teams have been doing digital and getting credit for it for years now and digital awards are seen as just an asset as a TV one if not more so job wise.

Let's see who picks up at the One Show Awards this Friday.

Anyone going?

Anonymous said...

Grey make and always have made awful TV, print work what makes anyone think they'll start doing good digital work?

You still need the clients to buy decent stuff. So sorry, at a place like that, i can see their traditional work getting even worse and nothing of any interest happening digitally.

CHI and BBH are a better model having won digital awards with atl creatives over the last 3 years.

Hayes Ben Thompson said...

Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Man writes v.poor article.

Other man writes funnier article about bad article.

Men and women spend time and energy commenting on both.

Well here's my views:

Big tent creativity? WTF?

This just sounds like he's trying to include more people. But ideas by committee, anyone? OK, so it is possible. But there's a reason why creative teams come in twos (I think.)

And isn't it because any more than two is a crowd? Because we humans like to pair up. Because we all have two parents, not three or four or five.

OK so you could have creative families but aren't these the agencies themselves?

It's a great point (several people have made) that you don't see any TV only agencies any more.

And you don't see any creative teams with an extra TV director included, either, do you? (Although perhaps it would make sense.)

And do you really need a techie telling you what's possible?

Isn't the challenge to create something no-one ever thought was possible?

Here's what you need to know about the interweb:

You can do anything. Dream it and someone can make it happen.

And if you can tell me what this guy means when he says the revolution will march out of this big tent, please email me.

I can't help thinking if he knew what he meant, himself, he would have just said it.

Bigger creative teams, though. Now there's a thought. Big groups of writers create some of the best entertainment ever seen, like the Simpsons, for example.

So why not in advertising? Why not, indeed?

But think of the wage bills, the logistics, the seating plans, the office space.

You know what? We're going to need a bigger tent.

Anonymous said...

i think what this proves is that nick law is no bill bernbach. and he's about seven years too late.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think it will be a "Gang of Four". A senior ATL team with a writer as the lead then a digital art director and a developer. Then you won't need any other teams at all. The writer will act as CD, the two ADs will work off each other, teach each other their respective crafts and help each other out (long after the writer has pissed off home). Digital is a complex beast and way more involved for the Art Director. Having seen both sides, a press campaign would like a lovely relaxing holiday every now and then. What about the developer? Someone said you don't want a techie telling you what's possible Sure you can do anything... but try taking that "we can do anything" idea to a techie (developer is a better word, closer to what they do) that you've already sold into a client or even your CD and watch them pop. Actually the most interesting people in the digital ghetto are the developers as long as they are approached the right way. The closer they are to the creative team the better, so why not stick them in it. This garbage of they don't get, only we get it oh no we get it they don't get... only demonstrates that no one gets it yet. That's at the core digital, it's evolving constantly in beta as they say. So why not experiment, take a risk, mix it up see if something new works. That's what Bill did.

Anonymous said...

pablo has it right. digital never ends. but you have to factor in what's possible. axe a techie! he or she will tell you.

my example; shooting a tv ad is a piece of proverbial piss by comparison.

Anonymous said...

re. CHI and the revolution awards, no-one gives the slightest shit about the rev awards and the x factor stuff picked up nowt anywhere else - usual politics bullshit...

Anonymous said...

listen to pablo! he knows what he's talking about. publish that article. everybody pretends they "get" digital but the reality is it's impossible to get because it's in perpetual motion. shut up and do something!

Anonymous said...

I'm only posting this so that crap last post ain't the last comment.

Anonymous said...

@ i shoot hoops. you haven't done much of this have you?

last comment bitches!

Anonymous said...

Yes sorry you're right.

I just don't get digital.

How do you do it?

Anonymous said...

like everything else. you just do it.

Unknown said...

It's not media, it's a platform. There's a fundamental difference, if you haven't grasped it by now you never will.