Close-up: So what the hell do you do when you get into the office?

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 22 April 2011 12:00AM

Once, you were a creative or a suit. Now, you can be a freshness director or in-house scientist. But is there substance to these stylish new roles?.

For a long time now, advertising has been full of weird and wonderful job titles (digital ninjas, immersion directors etc). And added to that list last week was "ideation director", the new role given by UM London to Nick Leonard and Rory Behrman. But just what does that position actually entail? Campaign spoke to Behrman to find out, and also asked others in some of adland's odd jobs to explain themselves.

RORY BEHRMAN, ideation director, UM London

What do you do when you need to describe something that can't be represented by existing vocabulary? You make the word up. It worked for Shakespeare and it's working for UM.

That's how we ended up calling our team ideation. It was the perfect word to describe a function made up of so many elements: trend-hunting, creative thinking, strategy, comms planning, negotiation and training. Essentially, we're here to come up with ideas, and to make them happen - so ideation sums that up pretty well.

Don't get me wrong: ideation director is pretty out there as far as job titles go. It's certainly been met with the odd smirk from clients and friends who have altogether more fathomable titles, such as teacher or builder. In the context of advertising, though, it works.

Having an ideation team means we work differently to any other agency, so it makes sense to give us a unique name. Day to day, we work in collaboration with our researchers and strategists to deliver a central idea that can bring a brief to life. Sometimes, we'll work with experts and specialists from outside the agency to help us form this idea - we don't pretend to know everything. We then root the idea in reality with our channel planners, and see how we can bring this to life in media.

At the end of the day, though, media creativity isn't the remit of a person with a quirky title; it's got to live through the agency. If our ideation team can foster it and encourage braver thinking, then we're doing our jobs right.

STEVE GLADYS, director of freshness UK, MediaCom

MediaCom has had a director of freshness for more than ten years. The DOF leads and promotes our freshness programme, which is designed to celebrate and reward creativity, help MediaCom people have better ideas, and make 124 Theobald's Road a more stimulating environment to work in.

Freshness is not about media planning, but the objective is we get better results out of people who are inspired to work more creatively. We have an annual competition called "If I Ran The Company", where teams of people pitch ideas that they would implement if they were the boss. MediaCom's bar came out of that - someone made a compelling presentation that people wouldn't just see the bar as an opportunity to get drunk, and that it could be used for media owner events and encourage bonding within the agency.

We're putting everyone in the company through creativity training, and are building a creativity room designed for idea generation. If people want to try a new hobby, we'll co-fund their activities; one of our staff recently decided to become a tattooist.

Sure, I've had funny reactions when I've told people my job title - but people take notice of it and ask what it is. Once I explain it, they lose their cynicism. So, in fact, the title serves a purpose.

TONY DELL, head of visual inspiration, DLKW Lowe

My title does sound rather grand, and it is an original one as far as my knowledge of 59 years in advertising goes.

My job is to bring various exhibitions, events or even my personal experiences to the notice of the agency - with a personal touch - so every day I write an article. I cannot compete with Brian Sewell with his knowledge of art nor his witty writing in the Evening Standard. But I can advertise. I try to bring some humour and a bit of heart into what I write about what I've seen or done. Occasionally, I can compare 2011 with 1925.

For instance, in the case of music (which is also in my remit since music is so often a creative stimulus), I compare the decor and dancing of the Royal Ballet with that of the Ballets Russe through first-hand knowledge. I try to be objective, although I am honest in expressing my own opinion of an artist's work. My job is enviable and original and I am having a ball!

DR DANIEL MULLENSIEFEN, scientist in residence, DDB UK

DDB UK rightly feels that there is a lot of very interesting work in the world of academia going on regarding the mind and the brain that it is keen to learn more about and bring into its day-to-day work.

I aim to understand what the problems are that planners and account managers are dealing with and whether a scientific understanding of how the human mind works can better inform how communication ideas are created, tested and used.

As a result of my interdisciplinary academic degree, I received training in diverse scientific methodologies, ranging from statistics to computer programming to experimental psychology and neuroscience. And I have thus become familiar with different ways of thinking about scientific and real-world problems.

Being able to apply these diverse ways of thinking flexibly is a real advantage if I want to engage with the full range of projects and accounts - from German cars to cat food - that the agency is dealing with.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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