In the ghetto (the creative ghetto that is)

"In The Ghetto" as sung by Mr. Eric Cartman

A debate over on Dave Trott's excellent blog got me to thinking about the modern creative ghetto.

In today's ad agencies, departments are clearly separated, not always physically (although that is still the norm) but very clearly by discipline. And the processes of modern agencies separate out the stages of solving the client's problems. Planner takes client's brief, planner comes up with strategy, writes new brief. Creative are briefed by planner on the planner's brief. Creatives come up with ideas to answer that brief. Creatives present ideas to team. Blah blah blah, ideas are presented to client.

This is a system that has broken up the process of problem solving into sections, much like a production line of, say, a car manufacturer. Every department does its little part. And theoretically, if everyone does it well, the end result should be good, right? Wrong. There are basic problems with this way of doing things. It's a process, it's been designed to get to solutions time-efficiently. It's not a system that generates the strongest advertising ideas, and because of that, is not the best for clients.

One of major problems with this way of doing things is that is has created 'the creative ghetto'. The creative ghetto is the modern creative department. It is quite often on its own floor, or in its part of the building. And more importantly, or rather harmfully, it is only involved in one part of the process.

It's created a generation of creatives who's role is to bring to life a strategy generated by a planner (quite often complaining about it a lot). Creatives have been reduced to the role of stylist, adding a layer of nice copy and visuals over the top of the strategy. This generation of creative are not responsible for the effectiveness of the campaigns they do, and so feel no responsibility towards it. Instead they are judged in abstract terms, by creative awards that reward craft. Even creative directors are judged on creative awards by their group heads or bosses. Someone else, somewhere, is responsible for the work working. The modern creatives are more concerned with techniques, with 'lines' and the execution of individual ads, than with creative advertising ideas.

It's a big problem for the business, and it's a self-perpetuating problem. Creatives are being more departmentalised, and are it seems in most cases, quite happy for that to happen. But clients aren't getting as effective work out of it. Creatives can see a clear template for winning awards, and if that's the criteria for judging them, who can blame them for aspiring to it? Therefore creatives become more concerned with what will win awards than what will work really well.

The solution? Creatives should be at the heart of the process from the beginning, they should take the client's brief, and interrogate it directly. By their nature, naturally good creative advertising people have the ability to take on this information and keep the detachment needed to see the real problems, and also look at it from a punter's point of view. Only the modern stylist has a problem with this. Creatives should be fully involved in and responsible for coming up with a great strategy. They should be involved all the way through, pitching the idea to the client, making it, and feeling responsibility for it working. That's how you get great advertising. Take the great George Lois as an example, George attacks the client's problem head on with his energy and creativity. And you can see it in it his work. It's extremely strong, yet you clearly know that it's there to do a job, to get a result.

So let's get the creatives out of the ghetto, and back in the thick of the action. In the long run it will lead to much better work. And those creative people who don't like their safety blanket being taken away can always go back to college, or into banking.


  1. I agree, it makes sense that the person coming up with the ideas and ultimately creating the campaign is the person talking to the client - otherwise it's like a really boring game of chinese whispers!

  2. that's how we do it over here at Pod Towers. can't imagine doing it any other way.


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