When Sony Music hired me to run its internal agency, which ultimately gave birth to Arcade Creative Group, I was in for a rude awakening. I left London and my comparatively structured job at Grey and returned to New York and a new industry.
Little did I know that the impending revolution in the music industry would become the tip of the spear for all other media and marketing.
It was 1999 and Napster was the big threat. Music was suddenly being discovered online and MySpace was about to be born. Remember MySpace was a music-based service that invented social media even before there was a term for it.
Early on, I was convinced I could bring my skills as a creator and marketer to the music business and teach it a thing or two. Instead, I was confronted with micro budgets, splintered target audiences defined by cultural passion points, and a business falling into the digital abyss.
I was baffled by the chaotic mesh of seemingly undisciplined collaborations between artists, art directors, writers, media planners, A&R, web designers, engineers and image-makers, that only got worse as digital forces tore the business apart.
It was my job to build an advertising agency to navigate these new waters and I quickly discovered that my 15-plus years of agency experience wasn’t going to help.
In short, the age of the great two-person creative team seemed dusty, and the messy world of hyper-collaboration had taken over.
Out of this disorderly foray evolved an agency that encompassed all necessary disciplines: art directors, writers, video content creators, digital, social and media, with creative and strategic focus. The team was a combination of talents from a plethora of industries, plus a gang of adventurous agency refugees---all willing participants in a risky marketing and creative experiment.
Eventually a new way of working emerged, one that started with ideation between multidisciplinary teams. Each project had members of all creative and platform disciplines involved from the onset, even if the end product did not ultimately live on all media. In the newly fractured media world, now the norm, we still had to get to the big idea whether we were marketing the 20th release of a rock legend or the debut recording of an emerging artist.
This new approach proved highly effective in reaching Millennials, multi-cultural and passion-segmented audiences. After all, collaboration--whether between members of a band, or art directors and writers--is always what the music business has done best.
I never planned on returning to advertising; music was just too much fun. The challenges seemed to multiply every day as new technology and consumption habits emerged. Then it dawned on me; all my years of agency experience had not taught me how to win over Millennials, but the eight years I had spent in the music business had.
To be sure, our hyper-collaborative model can be difficult to grasp, and even harder for new agency recruits. It is messier, and frequently a new writer or art director won’t understand why they’re in the same room as someone who specializes in digital.
They can be even more baffled when the creative leader emerges from digital even if we're producing TV or outdoor advertising. We’re still in the lab with it all but hyper-collaboration is the way forward. After all, Millennials are already creating this way. It’s time for the rest of us to catch up.