Opinion: Perspective - Why two creative heads may be better than one

Ken Hoggins and Chris O'Shea were together for 23 years; Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod spent 18 years together; Adam Tucker and Justin Tindall notched up 17 years, and Sean Doyle and Dave Dye managed ten. These days people meet, marry and divorce in shorter time than some creative partnerships survive.

But the days of the long-term creative management duo seem to be numbered (all of the above have recently split, page 22) and few agencies can boast such strong, enduring bonds within their management ranks now.

It's not just a creative thing: this very real sense of partnership and teamwork, of shared professional history, is becoming increasingly rare across the board in advertising. Where it does exist, at, say, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the agency seems to be stronger, staff more loyal and the management team more consensual.

Finding a high calibre group of people who manage to work together over the long haul can be a real determiner of success. And when it comes to running the creative department, it seems more vital than ever. The breakdown in the old-style creative partnership surely couldn't come at a worse time, just as life in the creative department becomes more complex than ever before. Senior, management-level creative duos are increasingly rare, yet the demands on the creative director have never been more intense. The ever-more multi-layered requirements of creative department leadership are less likely than ever to be met by just one person.

The imperative for ads to engage and entertain is more pressing in the fragmented digital media environment and it's arguable that two senior creative chiefs are more likely to be able to create and nurture the right sort of creative ideas than a single visionary.

But even beyond the actual, tangible output of the creative department, the creative director role faces more management issues than ever. For starters, managing the internal structure of the creative department is a consuming challenge as agencies wrestle with the issue of embedding digital into the creative DNA. Yet the sort of creative director equipped to manage this thorny structural transition is not necessarily going to be the sort of creative able to inspire a department to soaring creative heights.

And as agencies struggle to position themselves as business partners with their clients, creative chiefs have to be more business-literate and client-friendly than ever. Again, this requires skills not necessarily compatible with the other abilities demanded by the creative director role.

With joint executive creative directors, you might just be able to cover all these bases and more. But a single creative director who can glide easily between these differing personalities is about as rare as a JWT new-business coup. As agencies try to address the changing nature of the creative director role, it's a fair question: is the executive creative director role really too much for one person these days?

The democratisation of the internet has just notched up a gear. Last week, Chad Hurley, the co-founder of YouTube, told his fellow Davos delegates that the user-generated content site was planning to share its advertising revenue with the people who upload popular content.

This new initiative does turn the heat up on YouTube's copyright issues, which could be bad news for all those advertisers who enjoy exposure from punters uploading their favourite commercials. But perhaps it could also represent a quirky new revenue stream for advertisers too.

Will any of the ads that have been uploaded on YouTube be eligible for a share of ad revenue if they're popular enough with the punters? Could that be a new requirement for agencies: to create ads that are compelling enough to YouTube viewers to earn revenue back for the advertiser? Now wouldn't that raise the stakes.


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