Close-Up: Is it time to kill off the creative duo?

Is DDB's new 'trio' a trailblazing view of tomorrow or a triple-whammy mistake?

Almost half-a-century after the legendary Bill Bernbach broke all the advertising rules and put copywriters and art directors together as a duo, the agency that he helped make famous has attempted another change.

Juan Carlos Ortiz, the president of DDB Latina, has smashed that idea and instilled, across all of his offices, teams made up of a creative, a planner and a digital specialist, which he calls "trios".

Clearly, moving away from the traditional pairing has been talked about before by many a creative/planner/digital head, but, until now, few have truly enforced it as a way of working and made it a rigorous offering across a group of agencies.

Ortiz says: "That's why we at DDB Latina have not opted for small adjustment but, rather, have decided on a radical change in the way we develop creative business solutions for our clients."

Steve Vranakis, the joint executive creative director of VCCP, believes that the industry has been moving away from the creative duo for years.

He says: "It will shake up the way DDB looks at briefs. It's great because it will make everyone uneasy at first. Creatives will now find themselves in a room with digital geeks and planning Poindexters and this will lead to tensions and much better solutions."

Nick Gill, the executive creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, adds: "It's not going to be the end of the traditional team, it's still a good model for print and outdoor, but the industry has moved on and so must the way in which we approach briefs."

Many now believe that the optimum way of reaching a creative solution is to forgo a consistent team completely and simply pick and choose specific people with specific talents - from planners and creatives to technologists and designers.

This thought also leads some to question whether, by announcing a structure, DDB's plan is actually an advancement at all because it is still a rigidly enforced team.

Giles Hedger, the executive planning director at Leo Burnett, says: "By being so regimented, it just seems to me that he's (Ortiz) now paying three people to do two people's jobs. I can't see the idea actually working in the long run."

However, some believe that even though the lines between creative and everything else are blurring, there is still a need for some structure and rigidity. Surely creative brilliance most often comes from the understanding and chemistry between a creative team?

Can a constantly changing group of people really achieve that sort of potency?

Mark Roalfe, the chairman at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, says: "You can be as fluid as you want, but, at the end of the day, someone still has to take overall responsibility for the ad and that should come down to one or two people."

It seems clear that the role of the copywriter/art director team is becoming more and more marginalised, with agencies realising that multi-channel briefs need multi-channel answers, which can be too much for two people to handle.

However, this also means that the idea of the team, whether it be two people or ten, will remain as strong as ever.

Vranakis says: "It's the principle behind it. It doesn't matter how many people are in the team, it's about making sure there is the right mix of people to effectively answer the brief."

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CREATIVE - Nick Gill, executive creative director, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

"I don't like this idea of saying that things are dead or that they need killing. But the industry has changed and we need to look at business problems now, which means the creative duo model isn't relevant.

"It's now about getting the right people with the right skills to suit the brief, from designers to copywriters or technologists to digital creatives.

"It doesn't mean you get rid of creatives though. Sometimes the best work comes from a single creative mind. You need a mixture of big teams and small teams."

DIGITAL SPECIALIST - Steve Vranakis, joint executive creative director, VCCP

"It's a great idea and something we've been doing for a couple of years in what we call ignition meetings.

"I think it offers an element of tension and objectivity and delivers what I call the 'three Is'. Instinct: the creative; Intelligence: the planner and; Interaction: the digital specialist.

"It won't be the end of the copywriter/art director, though, because it's the principle behind it that counts, not the trio - so it's just a different type of creative team."

PLANNER - Giles Hedger, executive planning director, Leo Burnett

"We may well be coming to the end of the copywriter/art director team because solving creative briefs now needs a much larger group of experiences - it's a strain for two people.

"The important thing is temperament and casting. You can cast the group differently every time, but you have to ensure each specific skillset complements the others in the team.

"However, the industry has a lot of people who work well on their own or with a partner and it shouldn't be forgotten that creative genius can often come from one person or one spark. So the creative mind is still of utmost importance."

CREATIVE - Juan Carlos Ortiz, president, DDB Latina

"I don't think the creative duo has become obsolete because there will always be room for good creative solutions.

"However, the creative power of an agency is not just in the creative department anymore. Clients now want business solutions, which generally cannot be reached with a poster campaign.

"That's why we have decided to evolve the creative team and make sure the brief starts with a planner, creative and digital specialist.

"For too long, the industry has thought about briefs in pieces, it now needs to start thinking of them as a whole."


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