“Why don’t you all just fade away.” – Rex Manning, Empire Records
I couldn’t help but think of this quote from my favorite movie when I finished reading Joseph Jaffe’s latest blog post on “Is it time to phase out the creative function“. In one of the more provocative posts I have read in a long time, Jaffe basically calls the creative function out and argues that their time has passed them by. Jaffe argues that in today’s world, “creativity is just way too imporant to be left to a single person, a dynamic duo, or a department anymore.” He goes to state what I think is the most important part of his argument:
“I’d begin by losing the word ’creative’ from any job title and thus, any walking silo. Every–and I stress every–single person involved in the process of engaging surprising, delighting, empowering and converting consumers has to be creative. Any less will just result in failure.”
Last week I wrote about how there is a difference between being a Brand Manager and being a Marketer. This is one of the points that Jaffe was getting to. In the old world, you could just be a Brand Manager and rely on your creatives to come up with brilliant marketing campaigns. But in order to be the best Brand Managers in the future, you will need to be a brilliant Marketer as well. You need to embrace that breakthrough ideas could come from anywhere…the consumer, the agency and even the client. You cannot just sit comfortably in the background with the thinking that the ad campaign you approved will be the solution to everything.
Now to be clear, Jaffe isn’t arguing that creatives should fade away, but instead the creative function as currently defined should. If anything, I think Jaffe is helping make the case that agencies should be closer to the business so we can all be creatives for the business. One of the things I am enjoying most about my current assignment is the relationship I have with my agency team. In Cincinnati, a brand team will sometimes end up with a dozen different agencies (traditional TV/Print, media, interactive, design, PR, etc). Down here in Fayetteville though I get to work with one agency and as a result, I have brought that agency as close to the work as possible. In fact, my boss jokes that my account supervisor should just have a desk at our office since he is here so often. I think that is the point. In the new world of Brand Marketing, everyone should have a seat at a table to find the “answer.” My agency partner actually summed it up best when I sent this article to him for his thoughts. He wrote:
I think Jaffe’s point on creating silos is very much a direct and indirect product of the older creative department – input direction into the black box of creative and out comes the answer. Creativity has and is evolving. It is not positional or territorial or departmental. It is an approach. A willingness and ability to see things differently. To question. To pursue multiple angles to find the best answer. It is outdated to have this represented as a function in a company. – Jared Meisel
The stakes are incredibly high for both brands and agencies to find the answer to this. The new world of marketing requires partnership at an incredibly high level. This type of partnership will require the breaking down of my brand/agency norms, including the approach to creative. Anyone now willing to embrace this fact might just end up fading away.