Why can’t advertising be passionate about being creative?

By: Derek Walker, talentzoo.com, 09.03.12

Have you ever gone into a business to buy something, and when you did, did you ask the salesperson a specific question about how the thing you are thinking about buying performs, and the salesperson answered by talking about other features but never answering your question?

Ever wonder why he did that?

Because he knows the answer to your question is a negative, and by talking about something else, he hopes to draw your attention away from that area.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

That’s what happens with agencies when we start talking about creative.

The conversation jumps all over the place — metrics, the size of the agency, billings, the client list, the processes the agency uses, the technology they employ — agencies try to talk about a host of subjects but very seldom do they present a sound discussion about creative.

Why?

There are a couple of reasons. One is that the creative isn’t that strong. And the second is that we don’t understand how to explain the power of creative to clients.
I know; here is where everyone is going to claim that it’s someone else and not them — your agency is very creative and you are a champion of doing great creative work…blah, blah, blah!

Really?

Let’s take a look at most of the agency websites out there. What do they talk about? It is very seldom that they talk about the power of their creative or their passion for doing great creative. Oh, they throw out a line or two about creative, but they quickly shift focus onto something else. Sound familiar?

“Creative” has become a dirty word to some. It represents work that is pretty or clever but lacks substance. Advertising people use the word “creative” like it is a curse or a slur. Pitiful. That just shows that some do not understand what creative is and what it can do.

Great creative is pretty and clever, but is also smart and of substance. Creative work can deliver a message without making people feel like they are being sold to. It speaks to them like it knows them, causing them to be more receptive to the message. Creative works hard, but looks good doing it. Creative is remembered, shared, and talked about. It is noticed and sought out.

How dare we treat it like we should be ashamed of it when it should be a badge of honor and pride? Creative is power.

But you couldn’t tell from the way we are always apologizing for being creative. We work hard to show how businesslike our thinking is, how numbers-driven we are; anything to show that we have our creativeness in check. Heck, sometimes you even get agency folks justifying not doing great creative like it is a hindrance to getting the client’s message out.
Shame on us.

News flash, people! Creative is the product that we produce!
In a crowded marketplace, advertising is charged with the responsibility of presenting our clients’ messages in ways that stand out and get notice. No clients want their messages to blend in and go unnoticed. Guess what gets clients noticed? THE FREAKING CREATIVE!

Yeah, that’s right. I am saying that not only does creative matter, but without it we are failing our clients! We shouldn’t be downplaying being creative; we should be beating our clients’ competitors over the heads with our creative prowess. Clients can do dull, unattractive, and boring work all by themselves; they don’t need us to create something that will go unnoticed and disliked. Maybe that is why they treat advertising agencies with such disdain. They don’t see us doing anything they really couldn’t do.

As much as this matters for agencies, being the best creative you can possibly be matters even more for us as advertising professionals. I’m talking all of us, from the creative department to account services to media to research — we all should be embracing creative as part of who and what we are. Good and great agencies do not hire people for being just like everyone else. They want someone special, who stands out and offers something they can’t get from just anyone on the street. They want creative.

Here is the sad part. While we are running away from being creative, the rest of the business community is running full speed and with arms wide open toward being more creative. You can barely pick up a business publication today that doesn’t talk about being more creative to be more competitive. Then why are we working so hard to push it away from us?

Stop ducking the issue. Creative is who and what we are. Instead of following everyone else toward being more creative, we should be leading the charge. After all, we’ve been doing creative longer and better than anyone else.

Thanks Derek!

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