Media agencies function better to the symphonic sounds of Beethoven
A view from Ann Wixley

Media agencies function better to the symphonic sounds of Beethoven

At a recent Omnicom conference, someone said that we need rock bands, not rock stars, to make creative and business sense of the diversifying communications landscape; but I think we need orchestras.

We’re all in the business of ideas, but where they come from and how they are delivered continues to blur – the hierarchy of message versus medium has flattened. As we learn time and again, the medium can be the message and, increasingly, we need to strip out the layers and put the audience in the driver’s seat or create a product instead.

OMD UK practises a creative democracy. That’s to say that we encourage and expect ideas from a myriad of sources across the business. The creative team’s job is focused as much on empowering, inspiring and connecting others as it is on hands-on idea generation and development.

As a media agency, ours is not the craft of distillation and creative execution in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a complementary skill of expanding the idea, finding ways to open it up for our audiences to share in or to create a framework, at scale, with our media and tech partners.

Our starting point is the audience, and often the pipelines to reach them, and the idea diverges from there.

The creative team focus as much on empowering, inspiring and connecting others as hands-on idea generation

For me, the orchestra metaphor is helpful. The creativity of the composer, the sensitivity and command of the conductor, the diversity of the artists and technicians all illustrate the value of each player along the "idea journey" from divergence to convergence to collaboration.

There is a need for interpretation and "arrangement" in execution, individual specialist practice and collective rehearsal, harmony and dissonance, solos and accompaniment. I think of it as a sequence of events, not a hierarchy. A performance it certainly is.

This approach implies a need to encourage a broader definition of creativity as well as to create space for pure-play creative thinkers. It requires an attitude of openness and a culture of trust, with some method in the madness to manage the uncertainty and to facilitate the necessary connections within and beyond the agency.

All implications we are working on, one brief at a time. I guess you could say that we are practising Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. I prefer to think of it as Orchestral Manoeuvres towards the Light.

Ann Wixley is the creative director at OMD UK