For the cover story of the current issue of Adweek, Janet Stillson interviewed a number of CMO’s regarding what they want most from their agency and media partners. Anyone familiar with this type of article can guess the CMO’s broad stroke responses: a heightened call for that reliable industry workhorse, innovation, and complaints of how it seems scarce as hen’s teeth.
Frankly, that should come as no surprise, particularly given the actions taken by two CMO’s featured in the article, who were both specifically looking to spur innovation.
Laura Klauberg, VP of marketing at Unilever, told how for the 2009 upfront, she had MindShare brief their media partners on Unilever’s key branding initiatives, to clearly identify both their messages and desired consumers. She believed this knowledge would spur better thinking, but thus far, she admits the results have been mixed.
Christine Kubisztal, media strategy manager for Walgreen’s, went the opposite way; she left her agency partners out of the game entirely and went directly to the media sellers. Her thinking? “It’s tougher when there’s a middleman. I’m tired of trying to get them to go to media sellers and bring stuff forward.”
Interestingly—despite citing the need to have their agency partners step outside their comfort zone–neither CMO considered doing that themselves by involving their brand’s creative teams. Instead, they approached programming or media sales organizations hoping to find big ideas, despite the fact that neither employs dedicated creative staff. No wonder their results were ‘mixed’—how can you expect creative innovation from professionals who have honed their skills in other areas? Wouldn’t it make more sense to bring in the people you charge with creating and extending your brand idea platform and have them collaborate with your media partners? That way you’d start with both left brain and right brain talent and have a far greater likelihood of developing media innovation. In fact, the more you consider the exponential changes affecting our industry, the more evident it becomes that everyone needs to ‘step outside the comfort zone.’
You want creativity? Hire a creative.
You want creativity in any specific discipline? Pair that creative with a specialized expert.
Creativity is not a skillset; it’s an approach to problem solving. Yes, advertising creatives learn to develop thirty second television ads, but they could just as easily learn to imagine interesting cross promotions or engaging multi-media programs or even new media platforms altogether.
When I consider the gaming, social networking, syndicated videos and web development that we produce at Element 79, a very real truth emerges:
we are only a traditional agency to traditional clients.