What you don’t do is often as important, if not more so, than what you do in fact do
By definition, the job of a creative director involves creating stuff. And for all the hype around social media, the vast bulk of digital creative endeavour is still focused on spending money on buying media and then filling it up with something. So far, so traditional.
This approach is even more apparent within owned media. Free from many of the restrictions of the campaign, creative directors are able to unleash all the digital tools at their disposal. How else do you explain the proliferation of over-wrought, convoluted campaign sites as the defining model of digital creativity today.
The scarcity of genuinely great digital creative examples was highlighted in a recent discussion on the BBH Labs blog, where one comment in particular noted that it’s within owned media that most creative awards are won. Is it any surprise, therefore, that the key generator of awards comes from exactly that form of media that both doesn’t need to fight for attention (if you see it, then you’ve already made the choice to visit) and also is the place most closely under the control of the digital creative director?
We talk about how different digital is to traditional media, but in most cases creative directors are simply adopting a traditional broadcaststyle approach, often repeating the same mistakes, convincing ourselves that this is what consumers respond to rather than tackling the much more complicated and challenging requirement of actually finding ways to deliver genuinely engaging communications.
What the rise in importance of earned media has made apparent is that just creating more stuff is not the answer. What you don’t do is often as important, if not more so, than what you do in fact do. Clearly knowing when to shut up is a skill we could all do with a bit more of. Thinking about how to work with earned media forces a reappraisal of the role of the creative director, who is no longer required or able to be in control of every message and aspect of every campaign.
Joseph Jaffe in his book Join the Conversation suggested that, rather than fight against what appears to be a disenfranchisement of the role of the creative director, they’re better placed to act as ‘curator’ of the idea as it transcends the constraints of bought and owned media. With their experience in recognising great ideas, who better in a postcampaign world to recognise what’s most interesting; to know what to nurture, what to play down, what to tweak, what to move on; to know how best to keep the story going; to introduce new elements and ensure ideas are picked up, passed on, and take on a life of their own?
So if these are the skills that are going to be important from now on, which type of creative director would you rather work with: a big budget brand storyteller obsessed with control, or one more comfortable with the ebb and flow of the interactive world?