Creativity is sacred in our world. It is often central to mission statements and agency values, and is mentioned in almost every credentials presentation I see – and that’s because it is so important.
Creativity is the lifeblood of media agencies; it allows us to differentiate, succeed and grow. But agencies (and media owners) cannot expect it to happen naturally; it cannot be willed into existence just because it is important and we like the idea of it.
Also, it should not be owned by one team or department, or the people who work on the "cool" accounts – it has to be everywhere. Many of us now offer our clients a growing list of services from SEO and trading desks to experiential and content creation – and, in all of these disciplines, expertise plus creativity equals success.
Big steps must be taken to weave creativity into the fabric of an agency. This means going further than employing the occasional creative person or embarking on endless brainstorms (that rarely work). Leaders must put in place hard and soft measures to make it thrive, especially in the bigger organisations that cannot rely on a small tribe of creative thinkers.
People must be given the freedom and the confidence to express themselves through their work
It’s not an easy thing to achieve and it requires consideration in all areas of the day-to-day running of an agency. Recruiting curious and passionate people, building diversified teams, rewarding creativity, setting creative KPIs, investing in workspaces, celebrating great work, finding new ways of working and building it into contractual commitments are all examples of ways to encourage creativity to flourish.
Ongoing and relentless effort and investment into all of these areas will make it happen but, most importantly, people must be given the freedom and the confidence to express themselves through their work. This, in my opinion, is the fastest route to innovation.
New and young talent, particularly the millennials looking to join the industry or take on new roles, are not just out for the highest-paid job or the one that will best develop their skillset – increasingly, it is more important for them to be part of an innovative, brave and entrepreneurial environment. It is no surprise that the cultures that allow creativity to thrive attract and retain the best talent. Agencies that pay lip service to creativity, or think that it is just about the occasional big idea, will not compete at the highest level and will not make for exciting and interesting places to work.
Tim Pearson is the executive director, head of retail and agency development, at Manning Gottlieb OMD