Carl Johnson: Creatives don't own creative leadership

Carl Johnson, global CEO of Anomaly, takes issue with the argument that creative directors should be agency CEOs.

Carl Johnson: Creatives don't own creative leadership

Mark Figliulo is probably a very talented guy. But he’s just put out such a poor argument about agency leadership that, despite trying to ignore it whilst on holiday, I simply couldn't.

There is so much wrong I barely knew where to start. However, it’s best to look at the fundamental pillars of the argument:

The first mistake is to not realize that the crucial question is whether the organization values and truly believes in the power of creativity and ideas rather than whether the 'leader' is a "creative" person.

Bartle and Bogle clearly did value creativity, hence the power of BBH over three decades in the UK.

Jay Chiat also clearly did, hence a platform for Lee Clow and others. 

But John Hegarty and Lee Clow didn't run the agency. A philosophically aligned team of talent did.

Across the ages there are countless examples.

The second desperately old-fashioned implicit assumption is that the creative department are the only people with ideas. God this is so dull.

Radiohead's (non)-pricing strategy for launching "In Rainbows" couldn't have come from a strategist? A smart suit? Their manager?

Amazon’s "People who bought this, also bought this" isn't creative thinking to the highest order? Isn't 'an idea’?

Felix Baumgartner leaping in space for Red Bull couldn’t have come from a PR person? Or a media partnership?

An approach that has the world;’s best athletes wearing Beats in the media all the time, all over the world, is also 'creative' as far as I'm concerned.

Or do we mean ads? Are we looking very narrowly and backwards? Hopefully not.

And finally you have got to be kidding that you want your "creative leader" working on the clauses in client contracts, negotiating fees, discussing real estate lease terms, forecasting CAPEX requirements, trying to digest the long-term implications of data, optimizing resources, amending processes for a changed world...and on and on.

No one I’ve ever met can do it all…and consequently a team is always the solution, united behind a shared vision, values and ambition.

That team will come in many shapes and sizes, but what matters is that vision, not anyone’s department.

Back to the beach.


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