It's time to anoint the misfits

To survive the content generation, we need to anoint the misfits. The people who transcend the org chart but don’t rise in a department because they’re multidimensional and hard to categorize, The ones who compulsively improve stuff, react to and build on others’ work, and don’t wait on the boss’ approval to let it fly.

The reason is we need to create more content, in more forms, faster and more personally relevant, than ever before. Demand keeps escalating but budgets don’t; we’ve got to make more with less. It’s got to be interesting and relevant, answering the moment and setting up for more to come.

We can’t do it in the advertising system as we’ve known it for 70 years. By the time the account lead writes a brief, gets the client’s approval, assigns a project manager, gets it on the job # list and distributes to the creative team to think about it with a deadline next week, the moment is gone.

No, we need to create in perpetual motion. That means small teams that accomplish big things. Misfits are the key because they’re people who are five people, not people who need five people. They care less about job titles than about what they get to make. They show up and mix it up with whoever, and whatever, is up on any given day. They aren’t afraid to throw out unformed ideas for everyone to run with. As a group, they create a safe place about forwarding interesting content, not pleasing the boss.

These are writers who can edit, directors who team with social media experts that are attuned to strategy and production, and art directors who code and design. They’re typically hiding in plain sight. The five people they are is unique, but they are fully invested in those multiple roles because those roles are what they value. And those roles are increasingly what clients value as well. They want to meet the makers and the doers capable of making the interesting content their brands crave.

Hiring misfits who care more about what they make than what job title they have is the only way I’ve found to create more with less. Which is not to say they are not particular about how they want to contribute. The writer/director/editor/VO/lyricist is not the same as the art director/UX/app developer/designer/photographer.

Misfits thrive on the autonomy of a maker environment, but are wasted in a tightly managed system. They instinctively think across channels and disciplines, so they can make lots of content that is both interesting and cohesive - literally doing in days what used to take months. In the process, it becomes clear that there’s really no need for silos by traditional discipline or the hierarchical matchup of agency and client management layers.

Misfits get excited, not frustrated, as creative needs morph. They question everything, relentlessly. They’re determined to make better work and make the work better, so they tell you what they think about what you’re making and how you’re making it. And they don’t wait on the person who’s designated to do something. If they see it needs doing, they jump in and do it now. In the process, they motivate everyone to make better things faster.

The escalating demand for authentic, interesting and relevant content requires us to weave different forms of advertising together more consciously than ever before. So we need to give up the idea of linear and sequential in how we organize to make it. We can achieve the alignment brands need organically when we abandon specialty tracks for an open approach to creativity, where we encourage and expect everyone to do everything they can to achieve it. In other words, when we let the misfits rule.

John Trahar is co-founder and creative lead at Greatest Common Factory. He tweets @trahar

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