Sunday, June 15, 2014

Do We Actually Need Creative Directors?

Volvo's epic split film is hotly tipped to win a Grand Prix or two at Cannes this year.

Interestingly, it was made without the involvement of a Creative Director.

The agency behind it, Sweden's Forsman & Bodenfors, doesn't have them.

I've written previously about how - in a world of crumbling margins - agencies need to become leaner. By far our biggest cost is staff, so my suggestions included fusing Art Directors & Copywriters, or Suits & Planners.

Perhaps self-interestedly, I didn't think about abolishing Creative Directors.

But could we? They're a huge cost, after all.

At first sight, it seems like we'd be losing a hell of a lot. After all, someone has to make the decision about what work to present. And in the absence of a CD, I guess it would be the senior Suit & Planner on an account who would decide. Most of the time this would probably work okay. But I've known plenty of CD's who had an almost supernatural ability to spot potential in an idea when no one else did.

Also, the senior Suit & Planner would probably be the people shaping the work. Again, most of the time this would probably be fine. But as before, I've known plenty of CD's who have the ability to push work to a level beyond what anyone else thought was possible.

So how do F&B manage without CD's, given my predictions of the effect that removing CD's would have on a typical agency process? Answer: they don't have a typical agency process. At all.

There's an interesting article about how they work here. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the key bit: 

"The process by which people view and critique work is called 'the floor' — a holdover from the days when Forsman & Bodenfors was mainly making print ads, which could easily be spread out on the floor for people to see. You bring in at least five employees not attached to the project to go over the work and ask questions. It is the duty of these people to have an opinion of the work and openly express it, without holding anything back. They must ask questions about the work, questions they could envision the client or the general public asking about the direction. On the other side, the creators of the work must be open-minded, and although the ultimate decision of what to present to the client falls on their shoulders, they generally accept the critiques of their peers and go back to improve the work before presenting it to the clients."

So what do you think? CD's out?


Ndriana said...

Interesting point. I am a senior AD but I believe all these titles are now irelevant, they are just legacy from the last century when ads were 2D static pieces or at best a short movie on screen.

Unless one think advertising is about creating viral jokes only, to me the next creative leaders are the UX designers.
This role is evolving from purely technical to shaping users/consummers experience of a brand/product. And how surprising in a more and more connected world is that,

John said...

Ever heard of the left brainers and the right brainers? A good agency need both of such people.

A good CD is both a left and right brainer to tell a good relevant story. It is very rare that anyone else in an agency possess that attribute.

Certainly not a UX designer who are usually a right brainer for them to function well as a good UX designer in the first place.

The Split is a one-off.

Coop said...

Sorry John but the whole 'left brain / right brain' theory was completely disproved.

Here's something for you to read -

I never believed in that theory anyway - we are all as creative and or logical as one another but we just develop different attributes into strengths.

I think Forsman & Bodenfors are on to something.

JB said...

@ John

Forsman & Bodenfors won a grand prix at cannes in 2008. So not actually a 1 off.

Charles Edward Frith said...

I agree with merging suits and planners.

DP said...

What's in a title. The point is, the people who worked on the account or came up with the idea were probably guys good enough to be CDs elsewhere. At F&B they probably don't hand out titles to everyone. Or, maybe they don't have a traditional agency structure.

Eddie said...

There are a rare few actors that are doing a great job directing films, Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, etc. But does that mean the world should do without proper directors now and just leave it to the studios and their actors?

Anonymous said...

Ditch the CDs. I've worked with some good ones and some bad ones. On the whole there are more bad than good.
The worst ones are the ones who think they're in a movie about advertising and are playing "the role" of creative director ie being wacky, always being late for meetings, alternating between scarily aggressive and bored with their own genius, changing whole strategies on a whimsical thought they had during a meeting, trying it on with the fit birds at the agency, taking it and themselves very seriously, affecting to be helpless without their PA. Grow up you cunts.

Sam said...

Remembering BBH at one time does pitches without creative work, that didn't go on for long did they.

Or when Mother claimed not having suits onboard.

Who is the king of the mountain for a long time in recent years? Wieden +Kennedy.

I'll sign up if real creative shops like them decide to ditch Creative Directors.

It's a cycle, but it takes more than a couple of Grand Prixs to revolutionize the industry.

Sell! Sell! said...

After working at a few different places, some very good, some not so good, and working with lots of different people, likewise, I reckon the person is far more important than the job title. If you work with good people, it's great - regardless of what it says on their business card. If you work with bad people, nightmare.

It's a people business. Advertising is about people not process.

Scamp said...

Very true. But then would it follow that no single person should be given the power that a CD has, given that some people are bad?

Sell! Sell! said...

I'm not sure. Working with a great CD is brilliant, inspiring, makes you enjoy your work more, makes your work better. Working with a bad one makes everything seem bad, makes you hate your work, your life, your job, your life choices. Should you not have any CDs because some (most?) are bad? Or just make sure you work with great ones. In my experience the best CDs tend to use and value the opinions of those around them anyway, they are seldom dictators.

Sounds to me the wider problem is bad people and/or agencies that lack clear purpose.

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm one of the creatives behind the Epic Split at Forsman & Bodenfors. I've picked up my first gold in Cannes in the early '90s - so I don't thin it's a one off. And yes, it works without creative directors. Or executive creative directors. But you you need the help of all the other creative people at the agency to help you to develop the best idea. A collective CD, if you want. That's very Swedish, very Forsman & Bodenfors.
And no, the planners don't decide. They are an integrated part of the creative team at Forsman & Bodenfors.

Scamp said...

Good point. It's not just the culture of the agency that's a factor - it's the culture of the country. What works in Sweden maybe wouldn't work in the more individualistic UK, US, and Aus.

Anonymous said...

I prefer this version:

Anonymous said...

Eddie's comparison of film directors with advertising creative directors is a classic example of a straw man logical fallacy. I hope he doesn't use this type of justification in his presentations.