Opinion

Here's to the creative ones – and that can be all of us

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We have entered a new era of creativity for everyone, MediaCom's Stef Calcraft argues

When Campaign ran a story headlined, “MediaCom launches global division to bring creative and media back together” last month, it ignited a lot of excitement.

Excitement among our clients, partner media agencies, creative agencies, media, content and platform partners.

Why? Because we have entered a new era of creativity. A new era where the way we work and the nature of the ideas we create have changed fundamentally.

All driven by the most profound creative transformation since the invention of film and television. In fact, scrub that. Since the invention of the printing press.

A lifetime ago, back in 1997, TBWA and Apple’s Steve Jobs gave the world “Think different”. The philosophical celebration of the “crazy ones” gained instant advertising immortality. It provided the simplest and most inspiring “north star” for all things creative.

Back in 1997, advertising’s greatest iconoclast, Sir Martin Sorrell, also gave us something different. He swept away a century of advertising orthodoxy in two of the world’s most iconic creative agencies, where media and creative had sat together, arm in arm.

The consolidation of the media departments of JWT and Ogilvy & Mather into Mindshare cemented the separation of media and creative as the new industry model.

Back in 1997, a small start-up had also just been born. And it was also different. In the white-hot, first coming of Mother, there was no differentiation between job titles and roles. Strategic and creative ideas were judged purely on their merit, wherever they came from. The widest and most diverse “creative teams” were drawn from our clients, media agency partners, directors, producers, PR partners and research companies.

The result was work that many commentators said “changed advertising”. As a founding partner of Mother, I am not sure that is entirely true, but our ideas were viscerally more modern and energetic than most at the time. And they were far more effective as a result.

Media has unleashed new creative opportunities

Two decades later, Mother’s philosophy of holistic creativity and Think Different are more relevant today than they ever were, in a world changed beyond all recognition.

It is a change ultimately driven by media. The seismic detonation of social media, the explosion of online video, the inexorable rise of streaming platforms, the reinvention of how we shop and buy, the addressable media revolution now unfolding in front of us.

And hand in hand with this, the emergence of a new species of media and creative “super-consumers” – from kids to gen X, Y, Z and everyone else in between. Or, put more simply, all of us.

And whether by design or good luck, we are all sitting at the heart of these social and cultural tectonic upheavals.

From media’s new vantage point, there is insight and knowledge that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago: understanding people’s insatiable appetite for knowledge and experience. Their desires for unparalleled breadth and depth in entertainment, news, sport – every passion and interest that we invest our time in. The Power of Purpose and how this is changing the world around us. The power of personal communication, transforming how creative ideas work, and the corresponding invisibility and irrelevance of ideas when people are not at the epicentre of the creative process.

With this, new chapters in creative storytelling are opening, inspired by media, data and technology: the opportunity for creative ideas to connect with culture far beyond advertising. For those creative ideas to be inspired by the most intimate knowledge of people and the platforms they love. And for creativity itself to be driven by behaviour – making the stories brands want to tell far more personally valuable to fit the time, the place and the environment that people will intuitively appreciate.

So, what does this all mean for “who” contributes “what” in helping brands to transform creatively?

The truth is that with new knowledge comes competitive, creative advantage. The latest understanding of audiences and their behaviour, bringing as much visibility as possible to the new media innovations, platforms and creative technologies that are constantly evolving.

WPP chief executive Mark Read’s recent observation that “we spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about media targeting… but not nearly enough to think about how to personalise the creative messaging” is timely and prescient.

To create work with the necessary human connection requires a transformed strategic planning process, born of the intimate collaboration between the creative, media, production, technology and analytics teams.

Beyond this, the opportunities to connect brands more powerfully into popular culture are more tangible than ever before. Via sport and entertainment, cultural partnerships, short- and long-from entertainment, creator and influencer partnerships, gaming… the list goes on.

Orchestrating and connecting this to build audiences and presence online through SEO, experience, e-commerce and a whole plethora of new creative technologies and innovations is how brands now win.

The role of media agencies

So, does this mean that media agencies will increasingly try to compete creatively with creative agencies? Absolutely not.

They will look to collaborate more, not less. First, strategically in the briefing and messaging phases and then creatively, where ideas can extend and flourish across platforms, networks, production and technology partners.

Which means more diverse and wide-ranging insight and understanding, more diverse strategies, more diverse and wide-ranging creative ideas, and more powerful realisation of these ideas within, and beyond, “advertising”. It is ultimately an “and” conversation not an “or” conversation.

Group M’s vision “to make advertising work better for people” is designed to integrate and enhance every aspect of a brand’s creative and media storytelling – to make it more loved and to work better than ever before.

This transformed media and creative world also sits at the heart of WPP’s Creative Transformation vision and the recognition that there are now multiple creative partners across multiple agencies who seek each other out to collaborate.

All to assemble the creative polymath teams essential for brands to thrive.

So, in our ever-changing world, here’s to the creative ones. The clients, planners, copywriters, art directors, producers, audience planners, addressable strategists, media and creative technologists, data analysts, social listeners and creators, influencers, videographers, directors, UX designers, commerce and SEO creatives, sports and entertainment leaders, gamers and all those beyond. The modern creative stakeholders transforming how we work and the ideas we create.

My quote from last month’s announcement about MediaCom’s launch of our new division, MediaCom Creative Systems, read: “We have entered a new era of creativity.” I would now add two words to make this complete: “for everyone”.

First published on Campaign 1st June 2021

Creative Systems

MediaCom Creative Systems helps our clients ‘See the Bigger Picture’ by bringing together media and creative to drive brand relevance and accelerate growth.

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