Agencies Agency Leadership Creativity

In marketing, creativity still leads the way

By Emily Kleist | Vice president, executive creative director

The Mx Group


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July 11, 2023 | 7 min read

Emily Kleist of B2B specialists the Mx Group shares a manifesto of sorts for maintaining creative agility amid the stormy seas of AI, budget squeezes, and jam-packed schedules.

Footprints on an escalator

How can we maintain creativity when it feels so under threat? / Andrea De Santis via Unsplash

Today’s creatives have a lot on their minds.

It’s understandable. We’re worried about the future of our jobs as we learn how to collaborate with non-human creators. We’re struggling to balance emotional impact with performance metrics as we measure success. We fear that the next budget cut will come at just the wrong moment.

I’m starting to believe the fear is worse than the reality itself, but I also believe that a healthy dose of it does us some good. Before it becomes an unhealthy obsession, fear can be excellent fuel for creativity. And creativity is what gets us to great work, even when the odds seem stacked against us.

Creativity in peril?

Like many, I’ve asked myself whether creativity is in danger. For what it’s worth, though, I believe it’s alive and well.

Process, production and media strategies are not what they used to be. Distractions and constraints are multiplying at faster rates. The very things that will dull your next great idea are everywhere, ready and waiting.

But the ingredients of a great idea haven’t changed.

Truly excellent creativity comes from healthy tension, between sticking to the brief and stretching toward a slightly different instinct. Between staying in budget and selling something that will deliver better results. Between the fundamentally different perspectives on the right answer to the biggest question in the boardroom. Between pleasing the data and delighting a buyer — in ways that data can’t always predict.

I think we’d all agree there’s more than enough tension to play with today.

Leading the way

Your role as a creative marketer is to find the unexpected, irresistible way to look at a problem the rest of the world (or even just the room you’re in) sees another way. It’s to invest yourself — your instincts, courage and intelligence — in creating a memorable moment that shifts a perception. That’s the job. And the most important part of your job right now is to take care of yourself (and each other) so that you can maintain that clarity, and lead a bunch of scared people forward. Whether they admit it or not, they want to follow you.

No pressure.

A lot of us are feeling like the future holds even more unknowns than ever. So let’s start knowing as much as we can. Most of us still don’t know how AI will affect us personally and professionally (unless we’re David Simon).

If you’re still making up your mind, start experimenting. Learn what’s available to you and see how helpful (or not) it can be — on your own terms. If you lead a team, think about the potential impact (positive and negative) on different roles. Form your own opinion based on firsthand experience. You don’t have to feel the way your colleagues or influencers feel, or the way anyone assumes you’ll feel. Your experiences, feelings and beliefs are what make you a successful creative.

Don’t have time to play around with AI? That’s because you don’t have time for anything at all. That’s what all your notifications, status calls and inboxes are telling you. The smart substitutions for in-person connection can be downright chaotic. Don’t even try to get rid of it all; learn to draw boundaries from it. Stop multitasking and start making simple, significant gestures for yourself and your teams that create space to think and react. Give yourself some space and stillness to face your fears about the future. You might find it’s not as scary as it seems.

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Being there

The thing we should really be afraid of is being too busy and distracted to be good.

Or being in a bubble that limits perspective. I’m a huge proponent of making modern ways of working work. Remote collaboration can be effective (and efficient). Working from home (or working anywhere alone) can help create that restorative separation you need. However, at a certain point (and it’s different for everyone) you aren’t exposing yourself to what other people are doing, dealing with, thinking and feeling. When your job is to create a safe place to show emotion, shift mindsets and sell big ideas, there’s no substitution for human connection.

And there’s no substitution for human creativity, as long as humans continue to nurture it. When the doubts creep in, remember that your creative potential is not up to anyone or anything happening in the industry. When you’re afraid of what’s happened, or what happens next … use it. Let it fuel your relationship with your work, your relationships with opposing points of view, your relationships with robot writers, and most of all your relationship with yourself. As long as you’re still here, great work will follow.

Agencies Agency Leadership Creativity

Content by The Drum Network member:

The Mx Group

The Mx Group is the second largest independent, integrated B2B marketing agency in the U.S. Our mission is to impact the marketplace for companies that impact the world. For over 30 years, we’ve created meaningful end-to-end buying experiences for B2B brands. Our clients are leaders and innovators in energy, utilities, manufacturing, hospitality, automotive, health care, technology and SaaS who rely on our expertise to influence and grow their businesses. Our relationships with our clients and people are why B2B Marketing recognized us as Agency of the Year. Our headquarters are in Chicago, but our reach is global. Whether a client is an established or startup B2B brand, we have the people and perspective to be a strong partner that makes a difference.

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