Expansion Team

Posted on Mar 25, 2013

We all know that print is fading fast. Some might argue that the same goes for conventional 30-second television spots. In its place is the vast digital frontier where creatives are building campaigns around YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, microsites and all things shareable and likeable in an effort to figure out the next big thing.

Increasingly, technologists, programmers, interface designers and others are involved in the concepting phase because of the high level of sophistication of some of the more recent work. So we asked our four creatives about what this all means in terms of the creative team. Now that print and traditional TV are on the decline and more campaigns are built around digital elements, does the traditional Bernbach model—pairing an art director with a writer to come up with the big ideas—still apply?

Will McGinness
Executive Creative Director
Venables Bell & Partners/San Francisco

It depends on the project. We try to assess each project or campaign and evaluate how many people it may require. We tend to bring producers, PR, technologists and UX designers into the process early to collaborate in fleshing out certain ideas, which has proved invaluable.

We like to think our infrastructure fosters collaboration, as we mix up all the disciplines throughout the agency so there isn’t a “creative floor.” This has evolved into holding interdisciplinary concepting sessions before we craft the brief.

The idea is to get a group of people into a room and have a timed rapid-fire brainstorming session. We divide up into two groups and give ourselves a set amount of time and start the clock. The two groups have to share what they’ve come up with when the time runs out. The interesting thing is that the pressure of a countdown clock and having to share something gets everyone’s brain working in overdrive.

It’s generally why the best work comes towards the end of a project when people start to panic. By staging this artificial panic early, we tend to stumble on some pretty awesome ideas that stem from people’s gut instincts and raw ingenuity.

Mark Tutssel
Worldwide Chief Creative Officer
Leo Burnett/Chicago

The dilemma our industry is grappling with is of course the impact of digital on advertising. It is challenging the way we work. Every day we see something new. Innovation happens daily. New channels continue to open up, providing us with infinite ways to connect with people.

As a result, we question everything. But the one thing that will never change is our relentless focus on creativity.

We are an ideas industry. And we must always focus our attention on creativity to build a client’s business. We need to help brands stay culturally relevant and in order to do so, we need people who speak the language.

Today’s generation of digital natives are ad literate and incredibly savvy. They will not be advertised to. They are looking for creative ideas that have emotional resonance or some kind of entertainment or utility.

We need people who have the ability to create breakthrough, motivating and daring ideas that reflect the culture and the people that we are ultimately trying to inspire.

Everything we do is constantly a work in progress, including team structure. So, what is a 21st century creative team?

Today’s team has evolved from the classic copywriter/art director duo and has grown into a far bigger, multi-faceted, multi-disciplined ecosystem pod: an art director, a writer, a technologist, an experience designer and a social conversationalist.

We are constantly looking for new expressions to connect with people and create value in their lives.

This new landscape has a language all its own. With this evolution, our business model demands different skill sets. It should. Every idea is uniquely applied in different mediums and requires vastly different writing and art directional skills.

Ultimately, words and pictures will always have a place in advertising. To keep up with the modern world, we need to constantly update our model. If we don’t, we will be updated.

Stephen Goldblatt
Chief Digital Officer

When Bernbach put the AD and CW together, he expanded the possibilities of where the idea can come from. It went from being solely on the writer’s shoulders to a shared responsibility between writer and art director. He helped pave the way for collaboration and shared ownership of an idea. The way we structure teams today is very much in the spirit of what Bernbach put in place.

And today, just like in 1964, things continue to change. Now, there are a million (or at least 20) ways to share an idea with people—not just print, TV, radio or outdoor. So, it only makes sense that the teams responsible for generating that idea change and that the people in the room as a whole have an understanding of what is possible.

You have to supplement the great AD and great CW with a great designer, a great developer, a great planner and other great people who do other great things.

You have to know the talent in your building well. You need to be able to recall everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and be able to predict the contribution they will bring to the party. And, most importantly, you need to have people who are open to new ways of thinking. You need collaborators. This allows you to screw with the system just enough to allow interesting ideas to surface. If you continually put the same two people in a room to concept you shouldn’t be surprised when their solutions begin to resemble one another.

In some cases a writer, developer and designer is the best mix. In others it could be a few writers, a designer and an art director. And in others it could be three developers and a writer. It all depends on the creative challenge and where you think the idea needs to be pushed. There are people that have a deep understanding of certain platforms, trends and technologies that are invaluable to have around during the ideation process. And once you get these people in the room it’s important to set expectations and call out what you are relying on them to contribute.

I am a fan of changing it up, allowing good ideas to come from anywhere and encouraging collaboration and shared ownership of the concept. I’m also a fan of working with people that want to learn. Be confident at what you’re good at, but be open to what you don’t know.

Bruce Bildsten
Executive Creative Director

I love Bernbach. At a point early in my career I even worshipped Bernbach. But the Bernbach model is dead. It’s been dead for at least a decade. And nobody would be quicker to declare it dead than Bill himself.

The model he created in the early ’60s was in reaction to changing times in the first place. At its core, Bernbach’s model was all about collaboration. Bernbach realized the power of two minds riffing off each other—that messy, completely unscientific process of trading half thoughts until something really interesting happens.

Wouldn’t it naturally follow that more minds riffing off each other could lead to something even more interesting? The best ideas—truly new ideas—are absolutely the result of bringing a wider range of thinking to the table. And right from the start of the brief, not when an art director and copywriter have cracked “the idea” and technologists, producers and media experts are called in to execute it under their direction.

Of course, that is not to say that the creative team should be replaced by a conference room full of people, where “every idea is a good idea.” (The dreaded brainstorm.) We’ve all seen where that leads. But a select team of contributors with different skills and perspectives, all feeling free to go wherever their brains take them? That’s not the future. That’s the present.


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