Queen for a day: JWT's Kathy Ruiz on why the creative process needs a makeover

If you were in charge of the advertising industry, how would you do things differently? In a recent issue of The Drum, seven women told guest-editor Cindy Gallop how they would tackle the issues holding the industry back if they ruled the roost. Here, Kathy Ruiz, senior art director at JWT New York, explains why brands should put people at the centre of the creative process, and why more agencies should follow her 'work hard, party harder' philosophy.

I’ve always seen something magical in advertising. Before becoming an art director, I imagined the industry to be one big spectacle run by magicians who’d design all sorts of new tricks to fill the audience with smiles and wonder. These days, I know that although it might seem like the Greatest Show on Earth, what happens behind the curtain is an entirely different story.

In an industry where the audience is no longer easily surprised, it’s important to come up with new tricks and always have an ace up your sleeve.

If I ran the show, I’d make three simple adjustments to leave people wanting more. Many agencies look for the same type of creative, overlooking important qualities that make a creative team unique.

They often mistake experience for talent, which should be assessed by an individual’s potential for greatness, not the number of years in the field.

I’d create more opportunities for young talent—those who are often disregarded as not having enough experience, yet are filled with fresh, new ideas waiting to be led in the right direction to create the extraordinary, which is extremely important. Someday they’ll be the ones running the industry.

I’d also give the creative process a makeover, starting with where it all begins: the brief. Most briefs list several media as deliverables, when most of the time brands don’t even know the message they want to communicate. If you don’t know what you want to say, how can you strategise how you’re going to say it? Placing technology, instead of people, in the center of a strategy is a big, common mistake. Focusing on the consumer helps design an experience without being limited by any form of media.

The big idea should determine the best media channels to deliver that experience. I think the best digital work is the type that breaks the mould and extends beyond the screen, creating new ways to use technology. That’s what I like to call a great digital experience.

Finally, I would bring back ‘human hours’ to the workplace. As superhuman as creatives seem to be, we are people, not machines. Inspiration is what feeds our spirit and fuels our creativity.

We need to take the time to breathe, go out there, and get inspired. Only then can our ideas be new, clear, and inspiring.

I’ve been in agencies that actually take pride in 100-hour weeks, and fail to understand how much this kills our creative souls. Long hours do not mean more work’s being produced, it means the process needs improvement to use time and creative resources more efficiently.

I firmly believe in the ‘work hard, party harder’ philosophy.

This article was originally published in the 1 October edition of The Drum, edited by Cindy Gallop and focused on The New Creativity.

Take a look at why Elly Sandberg, assistant brand manager at Mondelez International, thinks innovation is a key factor in shaking up the industry.

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