We are in the creative business. Whatever we do, at the end of the day, the output is the creative product. A website, an app, a social media campaign or even a digital video. They are all creative outputs.
But in the digital world, platform and media strategy, technology and data play a huge role. These are not just offerings, but essential skill sets that all of us need in our agencies. How do we account for these and, more importantly, how closely aligned do they have to be to the traditional concept of the ‘creative team’?
I am of the opinion that we need to relook and re-engineer the concept and the composition of the creative team. Google does this brilliantly. They call it ‘Art, Copy & Code’ and some examples of the outcome can be seen on artcopycode.com .
I would wager that this is the true future of the agency creative team composition. And this has huge implications on whom you hire and whom they report to.
I firmly believe that coders should be a part of the creative team. We don’t just live in a digital world, we live in an increasingly interactive world. Banners were the start. Increasingly, we will see interactive videos as well. Websites were supposed to be interactive, but most of them are just electronic billboards today.
I predict that all this will change rapidly. Why? Because interaction is what clients are demanding. Because just engagement (Like, Comment and Share) is not enough anymore. Because they don’t drive business or help achieve campaign goals. Because the role of digital is increasingly about creating business impact for our clients through interactive experiences.
In this era, a creative person’s best friend can turn out to be the coder. This, however, also implies that the creative team – both art and copy – need to understand some rudimentary coding/ interaction design principles. At a larger level, this also means that the creative team leader needs to understand the same at a slightly deeper level. I am not suggesting that the creative team should learn coding or the coder should learn copywriting or design. They just need to understand how each of their skill sets can merge.
The new age creative team will, therefore, be headed not by a Creative Head (usually a guy from a copy background), but by what I call a Creative Technologist. Someone who truly understands Art, Copy and Code, and I can immediately think of a couple of people in India who fit this archetype.
However, it is not just the creative team that will be impacted. In the coming years, does it truly make sense anymore to separate Media, Search and Analytics? Aren’t they all connected? Shouldn’t they then be part of one team? What do we call this team/ department? I would call it the ‘Campaign Management’ team – responsible for planning and executing a campaign from start to finish, in collaboration with the creative team. Who will head that team? A media expert, a search ninja or an analytics whiz? I will come back to that shortly.
Let’s look at the role of servicing and planning. Should they be separate at all? I believe, the digital agency doesn’t need a servicing team (at least in its current form). Neither can most agencies afford to have pure play planners. Traditionally, these two people have been seen as Thinkers (Planners) and Doers (Servicing). Honestly, we can’t afford to have that anymore. We need what I call ThinkerDoers. And it doesn’t matter whether they come from a servicing background or a planning background. In my head, I would redesignate them as ‘Engagement Strategists’. They will have the dual role of leading client engagement and also online strategy.
Which brings me back to the role of Media, SEO & Analytics. They are increasingly going to play a key role in brand strategy. They can’t be separated anymore as the backroom boys. They have to increasingly be front-end skillsets as well as part of the creative and brand strategy process. I have seen so many times the difference an articulate search expert can bring to the table in selling a creative idea to the client. And I can vouch for the same when it comes to a media strategist or an analytics whiz. I am going to stick my neck out here and say that the ‘Engagement Planner’ should lead the Campaign Management team as well. If you think about it a little, I think it makes enormous sense.
So there you have it, the digital agency of the future will have two broad departments – Creative and Engagement Planning. Essentially, an agency model that is stacked with 360-degree people, who will attack each and every business challenge from a 360-degree perspective and most importantly, will work together from start to finish and not in the typical factory model of a linear assembly system. Difficult? Yes! Impossible? No! And I suspect, somewhere in India, some young turk is already planning a digital agency model built for the future. If you happen to be one of them, I would love to pick your brains over a beer or ten!
The author is Senior Vice President and General Manager at iContract.