A view from Claire Beale

Don't beat around the bush - it's still all about creativity

I love Jonathan Mildenhall's quote on the new agency model.

"The future belongs to those who go out and create it, not those who focus on the past."

It suggests the future belongs to companies that can actually create – and that’s certainly not everyone in this business and definitely not all those companies that think they can reverse into it. But before we get too caught up in the future and how the agency model has to change, it’s worth remembering that, even though the past is a deeply unfashionable place, it’s also how and why we’re all here. In the rush to work out the future, it’s dangerously easy to annihilate what has come before.

I had a meeting with an agency team recently where they talked about their data capabilities, their customer-experience credentials, their content division (which, as far as I could tell, appeared to fall foul of the "100 hours of something that nobody saw" syndrome that Baileys’ Garbhan O’Bric refers to in our piece). And only after all that – and a little apologetically – they talked about big creative ideas. Perhaps this particular agency is confident enough in its reputation for big creative ideas (as it should be) that it didn’t feel the need to labour the point. But the manner of their presentation suggested they weren’t sure that big creative ideas were what the future wanted or even needed; big creative ideas are so yesterday.

Bollocks to that. Yes, agencies need to adapt to take advantage of all the new tools and techniques that can inform and enhance what they do. But if they lose sight of the fact that what they do – the unique, critical bit – is find big creative ideas that shift hearts and minds and bottom lines, then we’re all buggered. The one message that rings out loud from the marketers quoted on page 13 is that quality and creativity are prized more than ever by the smartest clients. And quality and creativity (brilliant creative execution of transformative creative ideas) still reside most comprehensively, efficiently and effectively inside creative agencies.

Remember that when you indulge in the current debate about disintermediation; the idea of bypassing the creative experts and going direct to a (media) business whose over-riding obsession isn’t creative excellence in communications strategy and execution is surely absurd. Unless, of course, the companies that used to obsess about creative excellence are now obsessing about data and technology and all the other facilitators of creativity, rather than creativity itself. In which case, clients might as well cut out the middle man and chase the cheaper, quicker option. If there was ever a time for creative agencies to remember and emphasise their creative DNA, this is it. There’s surely no better  principle around which to reshape the future.