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The Influencers

Copy and Art? Creative Teams Can Be So Much More

INFLUENCER: adam&eveDDB's Tom Sussman responds to Havas Düsseldorf's Darren Richardson

Copy and Art? Creative Teams Can Be So Much More

Cognitive dissonance. Odd phrase that. It's one that's become all too popular in our industry and I've tried very hard to avoid crapping on about it. But, forgive me, it now seems apt...

You see, this is exactly what I felt when I read Darren Richardson's excellent article on the death of the creative partnership. 

On one side of my brain, the synapses felt alive with enthusiasm. Little bolts of electricity skipped and sang down the grey ridges and wrinkles, chirping their praises for Darren and his belief in flexible multidisciplinary crack-squads.

I am in absolute agreement with him that the bespoke resourcing of specialist teams is not only a fundamental part of our industry’s immediate present, but also of its foreseeable future.  

In fact, it’s an approach that we use here, at adam&eveDDB, with some success. It’s what allows us to ensure we develop solutions that fundamentally and responsibly solve our clients’ business problems, rather than just stimulate flattering upward swings on their various brand trackers. 

And this is great. 

I mean, really, it’s just fab. 

The only problem is that, on the other side of my brain, there is an entirely different argument going on. 

In fact, it’s the sort of argument that has gotten so passionate, so hand-flappy and arm-wavy, that other people in the restaurant have started to turn around to look. 

This puce-cheeked, table banger of an argument is in violent disagreement with the enthusiasm on the other side of the brain and, to be honest, it has got a point.  

You see, whilst I agree with the bespoke use of specialists, I don't agree with it as a replacement for the core creative team.

On the face of it, I can see that leaving the responsibility for an entire brand’s creative assets in the hands of traditional ad copywriters and art directors might seem a little archaic. Dangerous even. 

But let’s not be naïve. The boundaries between copywriter and art director have been blurring for years. Talk to a member of a core creative team today and 99% of them will tell you the same thing: they do both. 

The titles are meaningless. Instead what exists today are creative partnerships jointly tasked with the all-encompassing duty of looking after the way a brand communicates – formulating the idea it is based in and defining the way it communicates this to the world through language, images, acts and services. 

They, together with their strategic partners (maybe a planner, maybe an account person, maybe both if they get on), are the brand’s guardians. 

And make no mistake about it, this sort of guardianship is vital and will always be vital, if we want to deliver the best of what our industry is capable of - the accretive and self-perpetuating long-term sales and profit growth detailed by Les Binet, Byron Sharp and all the other Yoda-like figures in our galaxy. 

One off projects, fuelled by entirely disparate teams of creative mercenaries just won’t cut it. 

So how do we put this dissonance to rest? 

How do we unite the quietly progressive side of our brain with the spittle-flecked plea for common-sense and traditional values on the other? 

Well, put simply, we’ll need to get over our industry’s historic obsession with catastrophising and absolutism. The cinema did not replace the theatre. Video did not kill the radio-star. And the internet did not slip arsenic in the TV’s drink. They co-exist and work together and so must an agency’s core-brand guardians and its roster of A-team-style mercenaries. 

If we can do that then, well, maybe we can all start to think clearly again. 

Tom Sussman is strategy director at adam&eveDDB

Genre: Strategy/Insight