Is your agency creative led or creatively led?

Do you work in a creative led agency? Account management led? Or is it client led? If it isn't creatively led you should just go home have a lie down and take the rest of your career off. Because getting your brand’s story through the tens of thousands of messages bombarding people every day is next to impossible unless every single person on your team – the creatives, account management, connection strategists, producers and media are bringing creativity to their role.

Alan Kelly at Rothco states that creatively running your agency is the way forward

We’ve all heard the managing director of an agency stand up and say "an idea can come from anywhere" or "anyone can have an idea not just the creative department." Maybe, but I think this is now a defunct cliché of an argument. The real truth is that everyone can bring creativity to the idea. In fact, they have to.

Now more than ever, everyone bringing creativity to the table includes the client. We've all been in research groups where one guy at the back of the room has had a problem with something on your storyboard. "I don't like the fact that the couch in the ad is red...I hate red couches." And I've been in the room behind the mirror where this comment has released panic. "We need to change the couch colour now!"

Well maybe it’s OK that someone doesn't like the colour. And maybe it’s OK that someone hates your ad. It’s not our job to make every single person in the country comfortable. It's our job to break through the clutter and to stand a chance of doing that. Everyone on the team needs to bring creativity, because all things being equal, creativity is a marketeer’s best unfair advantage. Too often too many brand campaigns seem to want to blend in with the clutter rather than stand out. Maybe that’s because some marketeers are too worried that if their idea is too brave there's a chance that some people might not like it and if some people don't like it (like the red couch guy) they might lose their job. But if we look to some of the countries with the most creatively confident marketeers in the world like Brazil and New Zealand – you lose your job if you don't stand out.

It’s imperative that clients bring creativity to their role and that agency people leave their egos at the door. Recently, I was lucky enough to be asked to judge the One Show awards and during the coffee break I got talking with one of the other judges. He had been involved in the pitch for REI two years previously. He told me the story of how his agency had won the account against the odds: "We were invited into the boardroom where they talked/workshopped the brief with REI’s marketing team. During the session the boss of REI told the agency he had an idea: “Guys, my idea is we close all our stores on the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday, because we want them outside in the countryside not indoors shopping”". The story goes that four of the five agencies he told ignored it but one agency took it, developed it and pitched it back to him. Not only did this agency win the pitch but they won every Advertising Grand Prix going across the globe last year. The REI idea has since become the most referenced idea in every ad agency brainstorm in the world but if the client had not felt he had the right to be creative it never would have happened.

I’ll finish on an old story. It’s the story of the NASA janitor. The story goes like this:

President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!” The janitor got it. He understood the vision, and his part in it, and he had purpose.

And that kind of sums it up for me. If every person on your team has the same goal, and if they are all bringing creativity to their role, then and only then do you have a fighting chance of standing out and sending your brand to the moon.

Alan Kelly is executive creative director at Rothco.

Patrick Ronaldson, founder and strategy director of Rothco, will be speaking at Cannes this year at "If You Love Something, Set It Free" with AIB on Sat 17th June at the Debussy Theatre. More details here.

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