The New Playbook on Creativity

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Barry Wacksman, of R/GA, asks the Advertising Week audience to consider, “Where to be creative?” In advertising, the “how” and “why” are often considered, but the “where” is often left out. As the economy and politics shift through another cycle and we find ourselves on the downside of that curve, brands go through the shift of bringing agency work in-house or ask agencies to do more on smaller budgets. Barry brings up that, in addition to being on the downward part of a cycle, AI is presenting itself to be competition to agency work with some brands claiming they’re even getting better performance from AI.

The audience for advertising is dwindling across verticals. While most people get into advertising and agency work to make commercials and be creative story tellers, year-over-year, the audiences for commercials get smaller. There’s an entire generation coming up that doesn’t even watch television. Even the big sporting events can’t command the audiences they used to, yet the prices for advertising keep going up. Digital hasn’t been the “big salvation” advertisers thought it was going to be, but it’s just not happening between skipping ads and ad-blockers. Barry quotes a favorite analyst’s prediction saying advertising is going to decline 30% over the next 5 years.

Elon Musk is an example of a revolutionary way of thinking about advertising. Elon has not been around for generations and doesn’t struggle with the old print way versus television versus digital – Elon has skipped over those hurdles completely and skipped advertising completely. He got on stage, without a finished product, and sold cars all over the world all while evangelizing that he’s not in the car business, but in the saving-the-planet business. Barry uses Elon as an example of “where” to be creative in that Elon made his own platform, and Barry calls them “asymmetrically different competitors.”

Barry says he’s got a playbook with 6 things that current successful companies are doing:

  1. Inspiring Brand Purpose: What is the brand’s purpose? How can they show that purpose in all they do?
  2. Innovation: Brands need to look at themselves and see if they have stopped innovating. If the brand stagnates, so does their market share.
  3. Creativity in UX: Is the customer interface experience clear, engaging, and creative? Truly connect to the customer how they want to connect, individually and personally.
  4. Data collection is to better serve the consumer, not the brand: If a brand is collecting customer data via digital, the brand needs to use that to better meet the needs of the customer.
  5. Connect everything in an ecosystem. Brands that create more than just a singular product are more successful. Consumers like to have more than one thing connected and working in the same ecosystem.
  6. Coming to life in digital culture: How do we create things that live in digital culture? Is it worth sharing? That is the only way it will find an audience.

“The ambition of agencies need to change just as much as our clients,” Barry says in conclusion. There are many opportunities to be creative and reach the audience any agency or brand is looking for as long as they’re willing to retool their approach.

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