The creative team cooking up the big idea is over. Monolithic creative is no more (other than with Christmas and the Super Bowl), because there are no longer any town squares full of congregating customers where you can put them up. Creative has to sweep itself through the B-roads and back alleys to find and win over attentive eyes and ears. It’s a very different challenge for brands and agencies.
And beyond the big data-fuelled insights and platforms on which to action them, there exists a huge gnarly nut to crack. That is, a rare kind of creative sensibility that feeds off this pervasiveness and thinks not in stories but in systems. These people are called hybrid creatives and the demands we place on them ensure their scarcity and possible extinction as a species.
The clichéd ad creative is as much a salesperson as an ideator. Their requisite confidence compensate for the intangibility of their product: the big idea. The system creative, by contrast, is often more introverted and methodical, secure in the knowledge that what drives their arguments is as much science as it is instinct.
Agency cultures also tend to the one or the other. Brash and salesy or more timid and diligent. One off the charisma charts, the other modestly in the middle.
To create the often-discussed-but-less-often-delivered communication "ecosystem" of merit, you need both aspects. You need as much allure as you do orientation to make a system feel as much as it breathes. And to achieve this balance, you need people who have a native grasp of the language and culture of every space but also combine rock-star swagger with the meticulousness of a librarian.
Finding these rare beings is hard enough, but retaining them is harder still. But, as luck would have it, there are some trends we can ride on to reset the balance in our cultures. The big push for diversity is the key. Rather than see this as only a race and gender issue, diversity is also the confluence of perspectives, experiences, sensibilities and values. We need to be moving from monocultures to polyphonies; the way we run our companies either creates fertile ground or a dry forbidding wasteland for immigrants from other mindsets.
When you’re lucky enough to have a hybrid creative in the office for an interview, they’ll sniff out the culture a mile off. Is it somewhere receptive to new shapes of thinking? Is it a business that celebrates the seemingly irrelevant details that they know may make all the difference between success and failure? Will they support it, organise themselves around it and sell, sell, sell it?
When a hybrid creative sees an ambition to engage the intricacy of the new world, where confident answers don’t trump intelligent questions, they’ll get that flutter of excitement for the possibilities. They’ll dream that they might at last get to look at problems without their scope being narrowed at every step and shuffled towards a familiar, uninspiring destination.
Agencies have for so long hired digital specialists as a way to not engage with digital. Ironic. Just like we join gyms and then not go. But not going to a gym doesn’t get you fit, just like hiring a digital creative doesn’t necessarily make you more digital.
So if you want to attract some of this rare talent, figure out how you can make yourself a little more attractive by tuning into the problem properly. And if that means embracing a more diverse set of values and personalities, and challenging what your culture chooses to elevate and suffocate, you might have a chance of nabbing one. And keeping them.
Nicolas Roope is co-founder and creative director of Poke