Is It The End For Traditional Creative Teams?
18 Feet & Rising’s ECD Matt Keon rethinks traditional team structures and suggests a singular approach may be best.
Take the top five clients of any large agency - at least three of them will be facing fundamental issues that threaten their business. But often they are doing very little about it.
It could be the death of the distribution model, operating in a stagnant category, or competing against the stream of new entrants.
Not only that, but there’s always a group of guys and girls sitting in a shitty office in Old Street waiting to swoop in and monopolise on unresponsive businesses. Their goal is to dismantle slow-moving corporations and show the world a faster, more elegant way of doing the same business.
But by the time these brands or companies realise that they should be doing something to resolve it, it’s too late.
Consider these examples:
Nokia > Samsung
Blockbuster > Netflix
Black Cabs > Uber
But before you know it, the context has changed and new opportunities have emerged, and the once dominant are playing catch-up. And often that’s when the clients come to you for help (ideally, it would be sooner).
To offer helpful solutions and ideas, we need to think in the same way as the Old Street-group. And traditional creative teams may no longer be the most efficient way to answer a client’s brief.
I’m not saying it’s never the answer… but there might be more benefits to adopting a flexible structure.
At 18 Feet and Rising, we have a creative department made up of individual creatives, who are proficient in different disciplines. These ‘singles’ work together in different groups – and can more easily (and efficiently) address briefs.
As less traditional advertising briefs come in, I find it easier to scan the department and consider who’s good at X, Y and Z. I’ll then put those three singles together and suggest them to the client.
Similarly, if the brief is headline-writing, I’ll put a technical writer together with a creative writer and a couple of planners – who happened to study English at University – and they’ll make a unit.
While our process may be a little different, every good department has the potential to adopt these sort of combinations and use singles in a more flexible way. I’m not saying it’s the Holy Grail - but it works for us and it works for our clients.
Our structure is flexible and friendly and we have found that it encourages more creative collisions than previous systems.
We want to create brokerage opportunities where individuals of different backgrounds and varying knowledge can come together and create bisociative ideas.
Normal thought is associative – many similar facts understood by conforming to a specific reference.
Whereas creative thought is bisociative – using different references to create something new and give fresh meaning. Arthur Koestler’s 1964 book The Act of Creation states that the magic happens when you have creative collisions.
In the 50s, DDB’s Bill Bernbach attempted to increase creative collisions by putting art directors and copywriters together in creative teams. Most creative departments are made up of dyads, who work independently of one another and report to a CD. Each team develops several ideas, which are edited by senior management.
From three teams and a CD, this provides six potential creative collisions.
If these six potential ideas are brilliant – and over the last 50 years, dyads have been responsible for a lot of amazing work – I expect doubts along the lines of: ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’
But times and the types of brief have changed. And permanent married team structures can be restrictive.
Why not keep your talent but allow for different combinations and remove the permanency of the married team? I would like to see more agencies accept junior creative singles who are on their own instead of sending them away to team up with another and then come back.
We work this way because we want to constantly produce high-quality ideas and this method allows for a flexible structure that gives me more when actually I’m doing less.
Our non-permanent team structure and unique IP process means we get a large volume of ideas quickly. It’s like an engineering process. We know when the next big idea is coming into the station so we can avoid that white-knuckle ride of creativity by reducing the fear and pressure from the past – where everyone went slightly nuts waiting and there was such a huge effort involved that often we sold what we had and ended up under-valuing it.
When you are confident that your process delivers brilliant ideas, those ideas become assets. Our structure allows us to always deliver work confidently and work on an array of varying briefs at any time.