Commentary

A Call for Hybrid Creatives

  • by March 19, 2007
As marketers demand more innovative advertising campaigns to help drive sales and cultural relevance for their products, the lines between general and interactive agencies, film and video, and traditional and digital are fast beginning to blur.

Yet, it's amazing how few creative agencies are breaking down their work, looking at the traditional to interactive mix, and responding by hiring more talent with cross-disciplinary skills who can produce campaigns both online and on-air.

If you examine the agencies that consistently do great work that drives both business and cultural currency, like Goodby Silverstein, one thing immediately becomes apparent - they're already evolving their skill sets from TV-centric development to whatever the idea requires. The question is, is your creative agency doing this too?

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when online creative will become a more central component in the creative mix, just as TV, print and outdoor currently are. And those agencies that begin to erase the line between disciplines now are the ones that will be delivering the most integrated campaigns sooner than later. The ones who don't... well, have a nice shoot.

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As for the advertisers, well, there's lots of work to do. Through the genius of unbundling, agencies have successfully conditioned advertisers into thinking that they need different partners for just about every new creative trend that comes down the emerging media pipeline -- from podcasting to branded content to games... even Second Life developers. The scary part is, many advertisers have bought into this line of thinking and dive directly into working with production companies that specialize in these nascent platforms -- only to realize that integrating them with the remainder of their partners and campaign assets isn't as easy as they thought.

To be fair, some marketers are set up to do it, and some are not. The ones who do it well - well, you know their names: Target. Nike. Apple. Virgin. They often have creative stewards integrating their partners in-house. While still others think the answer lies in hiring the latest creative boutique, believing that since they're the latest thing, they must know all about the latest things... right? Wrong.

What we've found is that it's best to be honest with our clients about what we do and don't do well. Then, in hiring hybrid creative talent, we place strong conceptual and narrative storytelling skills at the top, and then assess what level of bonus digital and specialized skllls come with each candidate.

As always, talent right out of school comes to the industry through very different doors. Some from design; others from typography, animation or illustration. Some from film school; others from journalism school. The difference is, few if any discriminate between above- and below-the-line disciplines. They just want to do great work in a great place.

My advice? Feed them software and sodas, don't expect them in before 10 a.m., and watch what happens while their hybrid skills, from design and animation to filmmaking and typography, come to life both on-air AND online... without ever placing one above the other.

That said, creative agencies will always need those with specialized skill sets -- be it in art directing a great print ad, writing a humorous narrative, or designing an engaging Web experience. But in my book, those creative agencies with the athletes who can play both ways, traditional and digital, stand to win not just more pitches, but the hearts and minds of more CMOs.

Happy hybrid hunting.

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