Digital Transformation Agency

The state of B2B creativity: calling all creative leaders

By Andrew O'Sullivan |



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August 5, 2022 | 5 min read

The B2B landscape is constantly changing and confronting challenges to creativity in the industry. Andrew O’Sullivan, creative director EMEA at Transmission, considers the role that differentiation and disruption play in navigating new B2B norms and the importance of uncovering new methods for realizing the creative potential in B2B.

Our State of B2B Brand Building research report highlighted several startling discoveries about brand in the B2B marketing industry. But, for me, the clear desire for businesses to focus more significantly on brand despite the lack of creativity available to them stood out the most.

Naturally, as a creative, this can be seen as both a positive and negative finding. It’s positive because it shows there’s a growing appetite for lovely, big, creative ideas. But it’s also a negative because, as an industry, we aren’t seen to have the creative firepower to fulfill the potential that we have as creatives.

Transmission look at the evolution of creativity in the B2B marketing space. Image: Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

Transmission looks at the evolution of creativity in the B2B marketing space / Charles Deluvio via Unsplash

This is clearly reflected in the results of the much-anticipated B2B Cannes Lions categories – where only three gold awards were handed out to some of B2B’s most creative campaigns. Outside of that, there were a handful of silver and bronze awards and a couple of shortlists, while others received no honors at all. My thoughts? An unsurprising shame.

This highlights a gap I always feared existed, but one that has great potential to be filled. As a creative industry, B2B has long bemoaned the restraining nature of products, budgets, brands and clients as the blocker of great creative. Both our research and the Cannes results finally reveal these to be excuses, not a barrier.

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It’s time to be hard on ourselves as a creative body and start to practice what we preach.

Creative has to start working harder in the B2B sector. We must realize that there’s an opportunity to finally raise the standard for good in what has typically been the barren borderlands of B2B advertising creativity. But here’s the question: do we even know how to do it?

When the highest echelons of creative craft in B2B have been middling to average in the grand scheme of things, what happens when we are thrown the opportunity to change it all? To make all those wonderful ideas we’ve piled up on the cutting room floor?

Would they even work in the big wide world? Do we really know how to execute them?

It starts with our creative leadership

  1. You know who you are. It’s time to stand up and be noticed

  2. It’s not going to happen for free – the opportunities and briefs aren’t going to come raining down like mana from heaven. We have to go out and find them. We need to become as much of a front-line relationship-builder as our client services teams

  3. We need to champion creativity internally as much as externally

  4. We need to become creative educators or else no one is going to either understand us or listen to us

Creative leaders need to become better salespeople

In the words of the late great David Ogilvy: “We sell or else.” This, now more than ever, is not only the role of client services but of creatives too. Creative leaders need to play a central role in agency relationships with clients – making sure that the creative beliefs and challenges of every ask are kept on track to enable the strongest and most insightful briefs.

This relationship would also have to be one of managing expectations. We can’t just surprise marketers with very different, disruptive thinking. It would be met with a hard no, no matter how strong the idea. Instead, creative leaders need to guide clients to help them feel more comfortable with uncomfortable thinking.

To view our State of B2B Brand Building research report, click here to gather more insight into what 500 senior B2B marketing leaders worldwide think of B2B brand building today.

Digital Transformation Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

Transmission is the world’s largest independent global B2B marketing agency.

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