Creativity And Scale: Sworn Enemies Or Strange Bedfellows?

The natural reaction for many upon hearing that Facebook was buying Instagram for $1bn (which went to its 13 employees) was to look for the next cool thing. When a company that small gets a payout that big, that’s inevitable.  The same thing will likely happen to Pinterest, then Viddy and others. In today’s tech-driven world, small is often perceived to creative, quick, beautiful and “in” and scale is bland, slow, ugly and ‘”out.”

Size matters.

There is now a similar debate happening in agency land. As the world and consumers become more global, and the most valuable insights are derived from huge amounts of information, how should clients balance the desire for creative excellence with the scale required to deliver successful campaigns in markets across the world? Are the two mutually exclusive?

A quick glance through the 2011 Cannes Media Lions winners shows a spread from the Salvation Army in Argentina to the Suicide Prevention Center in Serbia, and suggests that creativity is not in great supply among the world’s largest media networks. But awards can be misleading.



Single-market campaigns win awards as they can tap into national culture and zeitgeist. Global or multi-local campaigns have to use one central idea everywhere, and adapt it to national cultures. This is the single reason why we see more local markets work winning awards at places like Cannes.  That is not to say that Cannes is not a good barometer of creativity; it’s just that the world and consumers have changed. Now, it is about creativity of insight and innovation (technology), and creativity in the application of that at massive scale.

To achieve success in today’s complex media world, the biggest clients need a dedicated, global insights provider. A portion of an agency insights team is not enough. It is no longer about simply targeting markets, such as BRICS and Next11s; it’s about gaining a greater understanding of the target consumer  to uncover patterns within, and between, groups of people that might not typically be grouped together.

It’s about finding their common habits that are relevant to the brand, and being creative in the application of that insight. It is about interpreting a broad concept (connections platform) in a way that is culturally and personally relevant for the consumers and then the brand joining those conversations in the consumer’s local markets.  

Finally, it’s about a brand understanding the role of each medium in communicating with the consumers --in some markets it will be TV that drives the functional message, in others, social networks.

Original thinking comes from places both big and small. Insights from around the globe, creativity that sometimes springs from one mind.  Creativity and scale are not at odds but work in collusion -- one cannot make it far without the other.  

The only way for global companies to win hearts and minds (and Lions) is to  embrace this new reality.  he next Instagram may be conceived by a few people.  But if it’s going to command $1bn, it will have to be embraced by millions.

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