Should creativity be left to the creatives?

Are the best ideas still born out of creative departments? Does using a traditional workflow process stifle creativity? Or can a good idea come from anywhere? Mumbrella's Abigail Dawson asks adland if creativity is better left to the creatives.

The Australian advertising industry is constantly churning out award-winning campaigns, including the likes of ANZ’s #holdtight, TAC’s Meet Graham, Snickers’ Hungerithm and Cochlear’s unconventional hearing test.

But where do these ideas come from: complex research, data and insight, or simply a bright idea?

In today’s evolving advertising industry, are the best ideas still born out of creative departments, or is it a whole team effort?

Should creativity be left to the creatives? The industry’s senior strategists and creatives share their thoughts.

Heath Collins, creative director, Cummins&Partners, says:

Collins says the only thing setting creatives apart from everyone else is their job title

“No, that’s silly. The only thing that sets creatives apart from anyone else is their job title, a bit of specialised training and the fact that we are inherently better and more talented than anyone else. No, hang on, not the last bit.

“Some of the best ideas and greatest insights I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in, came from people outside the creative department. Everyone within an agency should be encouraged to nurture their inner creative, allowing them to come up with potentially award-winning ideas that us creatives can take almost full credit for. Seriously though, my answer is no.”

Ben Hourahine, strategy partner, AnalogFolk, says:

Hourahine says: “creativity in a vacuum is pointless”

“Hmmm, as a planner at heart, my initial response is to question the question. I think the idea of detached ‘creativity’ is a misnomer.

“Creativity in a vacuum is pointless, just like a strategy without an action is pointless. More than this and to take the question seriously, I think the traditional process of workflow management is a real issue in agencies – the idea of handing off briefs through departments. So the answer is no in context.

“We have reinvented our process at AnalogFolk based on real-time collaboration across teams and technologies. That’s because we are looking for innovative market-leading solutions, not just what may have been traditionally defined as ‘creativity’.”

Tara Ford, ECD, DDB Sydney, says:

Ford says: “The best ideas still come from the creative department”

“Yes, and no.

“Generally, everyone in business should be creative. Creative thinking solves problems. Creative thinking sets you apart from your competitors. When it comes to creative ideas in advertising, I have had the pleasure of working with a few wonderfully creative people from other departments (you know who you are). They have been fabulous. And I have enjoyed the process. But it is rare. Very rare. Invariably, the best ideas still come from the creative department.

“And there is a difference between having an idea and executing it. The discipline, passion and craft needed to take an idea to market requires another whole layer of creative talent. Which is best served by creatives. Having said that, once the idea is hatched, everyone in the wider team should get creative.

“Asking things like: how can we lay the ground-work with the client? How can we champion the work beyond the meeting, into production and out into the world? Where and how could it go?

“What else could we do? What would make it greater, bigger, better? What else can we do to support the idea and see it flourish, not just survive?

“Getting creative here is so very valuable to the creative product. So even if you’re not in the creative department, please continue be as creative as you can to nurture, protect and support the creative work in your agencies. We need you. The creative needs you. Business needs you.”

Anthony Moss, ECD, WhiteGREY, says:

Moss says: “When it comes to crafting art direction and copy, that should be left to the creatives”

“Definitely not. Agencies need to ooze creativity at every touchpoint. Not only to reassure our clients that they’re paying us to do something that they can’t do, but because innovation and ideas thrive in environments that foster fresh thinking. It’s much easier to kill an idea that it is to help make it happen. So the more creative people in the organisation fighting for creativity, the better.

“When it comes to crafting art direction and copy, that should be left to the creatives. Just because you have a keyboard, doesn’t mean you’re a copywriter. That kind of creative democracy doesn’t make for better work. But the ideas themselves can come from anywhere.

“In fact, one of the most exciting opportunities in our agency at the moment came from our MD after she had a lightbulb moment while out with her family. The idea itself hasn’t changed much since she shared it, we’re just making it bulletproof for the client presentation.”

Richard Ralphsmith, founder and ECD, DPR&Co, says:

Ralphsmith says: “Creativity can come from anywhere”

“First, the standard response, because there’s a lot of truth to it. Creativity can come from anywhere: the client, planning, account service, the intern, the receptionist. Good creative agencies are fertile environments where genius sprouts from unexpected quarters.

“But I will add this. Some people are more naturally creative than others. These weirdos tend to fumble around aimlessly in a series of odd jobs until they stumble upon a home. Creative departments are just such a home.”

Sarah Bayley, associate creative director, DDI, says:

Bayley says the “overall vision” is in the hands of the creatives and should

“Along with being people who naturally like to create stuff, ‘The Creatives’ have also been trained to be experts at tapping into that spark. That means being able to unlock and access ideas more freely, quickly and on point.

“That’s not to say a ‘Non Creative’ can’t come up with a great thought or idea – but creativity in fact comes in two parts. It’s the thinking and it’s also the executing. For an idea to work it has to be brought to life somehow. Would we know of Van Gogh if he thought about sunflowers but didn’t express them in the form of a painting? The overall vision is absolutely in the hands of the ‘The Creatives’ and should be left to the experts.”

Wellison D’Assuncao, creative director, LOUD, says:

D’Assuncao agrees creativity should be left for the creatives

“Sometimes you can indulge yourself with paragraph upon paragraph trying to answer something that you believe someone else has already answered beautifully. Something that means you’re better off just shutting your gob and giving credit where credit is due. Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer DDB NZ, wrote a fantastic piece on this topic: ‘Advertising. Ideas. They are not for everyone.’

“Once you read this piece you’ll realise the important role that creatives shepherds scattered throughout our industry play, and why creativity should be left for creatives.”

Justine Metcalfe, founder and ECD, YOLO, says:

Metcalfe says “who cares where a good idea comes from”

“No – who cares where a great idea comes from?! I’m always suspicious of people who believe ideas have to come out of creative departments.

“When I look at ideas like ‘Meet Graham’ or the ‘Immunity Charm Bracelet’ – these could both have come from research or planning. Who executes the idea however, is a completely different question.”


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