Friday, September 24, 2010

have traditional ad creatives exceeded their sell-by dates?

Ana Andjelic wrote a provocative post this week on a topic that's got Adland's knickers in a twist, a piece so provocative, she's incited no less than seven comments from one irate Mad Man. Her thesis is that traditional advertising creativity is being marginalized.
"The 'kick-ass' creative director and what he/she does is no longer culturally relevant as it used to be. Today's creativity is way more collective, iterative, and yes, humble. To deliver it, creatives got to move away from "I have an idea, and it's brilliant" MO: the artistry today is in creating environments where collective creativity can flourish."
Ana postulates that the trend of traditional ad creatives leaving motherships to start up new enterprises has nothing to do with producing new agency models, everything to do with renegades from BDAs (hi George) setting out to replicate old models that let them continue to do what made them a success in the first place.

I agree with Ana that traditional advertising is itself being marginalized. (Oh, for the days that Harry Crane enjoyed, when all a brand had to do was buy 60 seconds on 3 networks to hit a stationary target of 85% of the country's consumers.)

But the creativity behind traditional advertising? Here to stay, I hope. Because non-linear marketing brains capable of producing great TV and print can be essential contributors to greatness in a multi-platform arena. At least three examples of recent digital goodness--Old Spice, Tipp-Ex and Pepsi Refresh--are products of creatives at traditional ad agencies.

True, breakthrough creative isn't a headline anymore. (Headline: just the sound of the word in your mouth feels ancient, doesn't it?) And creating content for old media and new(ish) media require different ways of thinking. To do a great print ad, you don't have to know how the ad is printed, but you can't do great digital without understanding at least some of the technology behind it. To their credit, plenty of traditional ad types have taken time to explore the space and find that creative (and collaborative) skills they've relied on for years are valuable in coming up with new content, complete with moving parts.

Perhaps some of the problem lies in traditional Adland's limited use of the label "creative". The longheld convention of titling one department "creative", implying that those in other departments aren't, has understandably pissed off "non-creatives" for years. Post-millennial shops like Big Spaceship have done away with the nomenclature entirely, eliminating creative from all titles because "everyone is."

Of course, creative thinking is essential to campaign success no matter which part of a campaign you're contributing to. And as Ana points out, there's artistry in creating environments where collective creativity can flourish. But it's not the same skill as coming up with concepts for brands year after year, noise-making ideas that are on strategy, on deadline and executable within budget. So, Ana, please don't toss out all of us traditional creatives just yet!


Bob Santangelo said...

Traditional translates to "older than most creatives working today"---Many traditional ad guys are over 45 and even more aren't given the chance to segue into new media etc... And if someone has the misfortune to be out of work for any length of time, the "stuff" they missed while out is detrimental to ever finding a position back in the game. Not only do we come up against the new ways to get the message out there we are also faced with the old ideas about age and the effectiveness a "seasoned" creative can bring to the party.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Thanks, Bob, for the comment. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. You make a good point, alas, that "traditional" can be code for "older." Yet truth is, lots of folks working at digital agencies are, um, age-challenged, too.

As far as I can see, creating innovative brand content isn't dependent on an age, but a mindset. I trust that any creative with time and interest enough can segue their skills to collaborative, multi-disciplined approaches. Because ultimately, the business is about what it's always been about--ideas.

But, you're right. It's frustrating when assumptions are made simply because of how many years you've been in the industry.

Bob Santangelo said...

Helen, I totally agree about the mindset. The same can be said for any creative endeavor regardless of age.

I know there are "age challenged" creatives working in the digital world, however,once put on the sidelines, it's hard playing catch-up. I've got the unemployed talented friends to prove it.