The New Face of Creativity

Without making a grand announcement, how we define the creative department in an agency may have quietly changed. Perhaps the biggest change started taking place when the large media agencies started hiring creative people realising that their clients were not looking for just media solutions from them. Besides of course the fact that the digital environment is radically changing the way we look at creativity.

In the Mad Men era when the creative department created a TV commercial for example, the campaign would run at least run a few months if not the entire year. So creatives could put their feet up for the rest of the year and gloat on their piece of work being a sucess. But the digital era has changed all that. Everything is instantaneous. This is because for example on social media the life of a post maybe just a few hours at most. So the creative person has to react almost hour to hour. They say that the half life of a tweet is 24 minutes, whereas the half life of a Facebook post is 90 minutes. This means that creative has to react hour to hour compared to the Mad Men era when perhaps new campaigns were needed on a half yearly or quarterly basis.

The definition of creativity has also changed because now any kind of content, comes out of creative people. A new breed of creative directors hired by media agencies maybe changing the entire complexion of what we expect from creative directors and creativity in the digital environment. Ann Wixley creative director at Wavemaker one the large media agencies says ““It’s a childish thing, but we call ad agencies ‘ad agencies’ not creative agencies because that implies that nobody else is creative, and that’s a pity,” she says. “Yes, ad agencies live or die by ideas. Their business thrives or folds. Ours doesn’t. However, that is changing, and that is part of the pivot of Wavemaker. We’re trying to spot new opportunities before a brief lands.”

One more thing has changed. In the Mad Men era one never really knew how a particular campaign had performed, unless of course the client instituted some research which would often take months on end by which time the feedback would be quite redundant anyway. In the digital age, the feedback from consumers is instantaneous, which means today’s creative director has to think and rethink on the fly on a daily basis perhaps.

Antonio Bonello creative director at Buzzfeed says “We make 600 pieces of content a day, which produces so many different learnings. We don’t have to rely on research studies. Because we’re on the internet we get instant feedback. I’m kind of addicted to that now.”

This change in defining creativity has serious implications on the industry. For one have we come full circle because if the media agency has incorporated a creative department it means that this is is the integrated agency of the future. The ad agency started a 100 years ago by selling media space. Secondly it means that the skills that are required for today’s creative directors might be very different from the skills of creative directors in the Mad Men era.

One thing is for sure. The nature of the business is changing very fast. And the pressure is not going to ease on the traditional creative agency. The world around them is changing much more rapidly than they are. So they will have to constantly play catch up, if they have to succeed.

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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc ( ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.

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