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Creative Creative Process Agency

Agencies need to shake up the creative process if they want to compete with their 'frenemies'


By Lawrence Weber, managing partner innovation

August 8, 2016 | 6 min read

The pressures on the modern day marketeer are exponentially greater than they were 15 years ago.

Creative process agencies rejigged

Agencies need to shake up the creative process if they want to compete with their 'frenemies' / Pexels

Consumers are more questioning and demanding of brands, have less attention to give and seemingly more places to spend it. Most crucially at the same time as blocking overt marketing messages on the open web they are seemingly happy to give more and more attention, power and data to fewer and fewer closed platforms who control ever greater swathes of unblockable, native inventory.

The response of brands has been to try and do more marketing, across more channels with less or the same amount of budget, desiring to do brave things but balanced with what they know- for the moment- works.

But what have we as agencies done to respond to the massive increase in complexity and seeming status quo in budgets?

We’ve rolled ourselves up into big networks that promise the best of everything, but are seemingly not very easy for our clients to work with, or we’ve run off and splintered ourselves into tiny fragments of specialism that add complexity to agency relationships and put added pressure on budgets.

More broadly while we have become obsessed with giving each other awards for making 'products' or 'content' that rarely reach scale, we’re being broadsided by consultancies who sell pre-packaged efficiency models dressed up as innovation and digital transformation and media owners making their own content to distribute to their audiences with our client’s budgets.

We are being slowly pushed from the centre of client relationships by all of the above and more and if we want to get that centre ground back we need to change some of our behaviours.

I sound really pessimistic about the current state of the agency world, but actually the skills that can be found in abundance in great agencies and great agency people – razor sharp consumer understanding, transformative creative thinking and a bloody-minded tenacity to get things done – have never been more in demand.

Refocusing ourselves around these crucial, core skills and acting like the nimble, quick witted businesses changers we know we can be, will help us co-exist and compete with our 'frenemies', aka the platforms, the consultancies and the media owners.

Here are three things we could think about changing to regain the centre ground:

Breaking the creative brief

If it’s true that creativity can come from anywhere and that we can produce anything we want to – then we need, for the right briefs – to break our addiction to solving problems by expecting our creatives to do everything by themselves, armed only with a brief and lots of coffee and their great but very particular types of talent.

The dreaded brainstorm might not be the answer but creative sessions that can help collide gut feel creativity with the tools of data and APIs – as well as the partners that can help us capitalize on them- need to become commonplace.

It’s no surprise that the tech platforms and consultancies are hovering up agencies and individual talent to try and combine creativity and technology. We need to get there first, not just as one-offs that win Lions but as sustained ideas that generate new campaigns, products and even businesses.

We need to own ideas not execution

To get any form of cut through and effect we need to be as single-minded as ever about our creativity, at the same time though we need to be much more open and distributed in the ways we make our creativity real.

Our true secret weapon against people with only one thing to sell should be our ability to put forward the right idea for the right client; regardless of it’s channel and form. Lots of agencies have this belief- we at Karmarama distilled this into our Good Works mantra- but we should shout louder about our role as the client’s trusted and neutral advisor.

However we can only use that secret weapon if we truly embrace the power of partnerships and celebrate these partnerships as part of our agency DNA.

Harnessing creativity for good

If we can work out ways to harness the wisdom of our partners and collide the seeming oil and water of creativity and technology at scale, we can join the growing band of clients who believe that making money and doing good aren’t mutually exclusive.

Whether it is devising campaigns that reward or promote progressive behavior, helping design products and services that can give back or just promoting the ways our clients want to give back, we as creative partners are ideally placed to make the pieces fit together.

After all we are the only ones that really believe that creativity above all else will win. We just need to stay, or get back into, the driving seat- to prove it.

Lawrence Weber is managing partner innovation at Karmarama, a member of the BIMA executive and chair of the IPA brand tech group.

Creative Creative Process Agency

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