For Ads 'Stupid, Simple Ideas' Work Pretty Well Sometimes

While Adland has dealt with tremendous change in recent years, much of it due in large part to changing consumer behavior, creative directors at an Advertising Week session debunked a number of myths that have taken root as a result of all that change.

Among them: Big ideas rule; marketers have to surround consumers with messaging on every step along the path to purchase, and creatives have to know how to write code or face expulsion from the industry.

But one thing hasn’t changed, said Matt Ian, executive creative director, TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. Creative “is a messy process,” and clients need to embrace that. It’s important, he added, that both agency and client agree on the point of view from which the brand will approach communicating with consumers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “big idea,” he said. “Stupid, simple ideas” oftentimes work just as well.

And the execution doesn’t necessarily have to stalk the consumer at every touch point, said Matt Eastwood, chief creative officer, DDB New York. “Consumers don’t want to be surrounded,” he said. “They want to be communicated too.”



Digital, said Jay Russell, executive creative director, GSD&M, is “another palette” that can be used to tell a brand story. “Once the mystery is gone,” he said, agencies “can stop hiring people with digital in front of their name.”

Carlos Figueiredo, executive creative director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, said that integrating the digital and traditional creative processes has been an industry challenge. But it is happening. “The biggest change I’ve seen is how people have come together,” he said. Traditional creatives tend to be perfectionists with a “if it’s not perfect it’s not done” approach to work. In the digital world, speed to market has been the focus where the view tends to be “if it’s done it’s perfect.” The key, he said, “is to get both to meet in a middle place,” where both sides accept that work can be both better and faster.

Panel moderator and agency veteran Paul Woolmington likened the creative director’s role today to a “chief collaboration officer,” who orchestrates the overall process. “Story telling is still key,” he said.

 Ian agreed, saying that today he feels more like an executive producer on a Hollywood program. “You’re casting all the time,” he said, noting that sometimes “it’s like HR.”

 Russell added that half the battle is “understanding the problem and what the client is really saying.” Casting, he agreed is also critical. “You need to get the right people to solve the right problems.”

Peter Moore Smith, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi New York said he’s seen an “erosion” in traditional talent skill-sets. “There are lots of creative people,” he said, but often it’s difficult to find new talent with solid writing skills.

Creatives, added Ian, need to be generalists who understand the entire process and have expertise in at least one area. When digital was first emerging, he said he thought, “shit, if I don’t learn how to code I’m fucked.” But it turned out a mid-career internship at Google wasn’t necessary. “But you should understand the whole thing,” he said.

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