What will agency creative teams look like in the future?

Tuesday April 22, 2014

written by Honest Hardworking True

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Recently, Digiday wrote about “the new agency creative team”  with the perspectives of some top New York creative directors on how creative teams are morphing. Common themes? It’s more business-savvy. (I enjoy the reference to a hacker, a hipster and a hustler.) It’s more diverse. It changes depending on the problem at hand. One CD said, “Design and copy are still at the core.

Nick (Pipitone, all-powerful blog editor) and I got to talking on Twitter one afternoon, and thought it would be interesting to get the musings of some top Milwaukee CDs on the same topic. Similar themes emerged….

Evolve to focus on the business outcomes, versus the creative outputs.

“Creative” is not owned by one department: there are more players, more specialists in the sandbox. Define the game at hand and pick the right people accordingly.

Here, too, one CD said it still comes down to art and copy: “At the end of the day, whether the day lands in 1975 or 2025, great art and copy give a brand its soul.”

Many thanks to the five CDs who participated; here’s their brilliance for you to behold. Then add your two cents in the comments.


Cindi Thomas, Translator 

 I believe that the real opportunity for the future of agencies is not to focus on the evolution of team makeup but rather to evolve the work being done to focus on delivering business outcomes not merely high functioning outputs.  If that shift is made, then the traditional “creative team” is sunset, because business outcomes require creativity that is not owned by any one discipline, department or team. The new creative team becomes the agency itself, not a subset of individuals within it, with all disciplines equally recognized and required, applying their unique creativity in skills they bring to bear on the work to be done.


Chris Jacobs, Cramer-Krasselt 

Over the past few years, the question of what the new creative team will look like in the future has come up constantly. It comes up in the press. It comes up in the hallways of our office. And it usually starts with reference to the old creative team, which is the combination of an art director and a copywriter. But I think that reference to the old team is part of the problem. Because that old team is described as two “titles”, which sort of implies that the new team will be some formula of new titles. Personally, I don’t give much merit to titles. I believe in talent, thinkers and doers.

I also don’t like the expression “a great idea can come from anywhere.” In my experience, that expression is used to justify throwing a ton of bodies at a problem and expect you’ll get lucky. I do believe in the statement that “a great idea can come from anyone who is talented at coming up with great ideas.” But those people are not always in a creative department. I have run into quite a few people in media over the years that could mop the floor with many creative people in the area of creating big, juicy, cool ideas. And I have run into some brand planners who can concept some seriously funny, smart ideas.

So, I’d suggest you define the game in front of you, then pick the right individuals who you believe will help crack the code. But don’t simply arrange a team with a checklist of titles. Also, one other thing that I think will be critical. Try to separate the notion of ideation and execution. Many of the best players are not always great at both areas. And that’s fine. We can’t all be great at everything. Build the bigger team with an eye towards both nailing the big idea and executing it well.


Gary Mueller, BVK 

First I hope the creative team of the future stops being defined that way. After all, I hope we’ve passed the point where creativity is still considered to reside solely within the walls of the creative department. I know it sounds trite, but doesn’t any agency worth a lick anymore include digital, social, production, data analytic and mobile folks on their creative teams? Not to mention the smartest PR, media, search, writers, designers and account planners. The only difference is, in the future, new technologies will continue to breed new specialists, which will be added to the creative team. So that the creative team of the future will simply be bigger, more integrated and have to ideate and produce campaigns faster. So what’s new?


Rich Kohnke, Laughlin Constable 

Good creative departments have been evolving for years. The future is really what’s required today. You bring in everybody. The technologists, the hackers, the gamers, the social geeks. You have to be open to anyone bringing an idea. Or plussing an idea. There has to be freedom. Everyone rubs off on each other, and everyone gets better at what they respectively do. Then the art and copy people become bridges. They get the motley crew to think like traditional creatives, with respect for the concept, fit and finish. At the end of the day, whether the day lands in 1975 or 2025, great art and copy give a brand its soul. Without soul, brands are dead. 


Joe Ban, Hoffman York 

The days of the “one off” TV commercial or print ad are few and far between. The more layers that comprise a campaign, the more experts are needed to bring it to its fullest potential. That’s not to say the traditional core team of an art director and writer have fallen to the wayside. It’s just that the sandbox in which they play has needed to get bigger to allow for more players. It’s still about the idea. More and more you hear the phrase, “a good idea can come from anywhere.” But let’s be honest, you’re not going to see a lot of accountants coming up with the next great digital idea or powerful headline or mind-blowing design. Just like you wouldn’t want creatives keeping the books. You still need the specialists driving the idea and seeing it come to fruition.



Now it’s your turn. Tell us what YOU think. Are creative teams more business savvy now? More fluid? Does it still, at the end of the day, come down to brilliant art and copy? Or do you see something else happening?

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