Speaking on day two of Lions Live, Merlee Jayme, global president, Dentsu mcgarrybowen, explained how she believed creative leadership will save the businesses of the future.
She spoke about how she developed from being a slightly selfish and egoistic creative over time and began to emphasise with clients.
She said, "Little by little, I grew up. The right brain was faded by the left. I met clients I loved. I suddenly emphasised with them and took pains to understand their businesses. And then the creative product evolved and gave better results. When I put up my own agency, I suddenly discovered the power of being a business minded creative. We found ways to make management creative. For example, to push multi-tasking, I introduced pot-luck within the agency. You bring to the table what skills you have other than the job you're doing. You could have an art director who was doubling up as our social media director. He was only updating our twitter account, but things like this make your head count very efficient. I made sure the agency was very flat so all the hands including me were getting her hands dirty. It's about getting the best benefits."
Creative work is business growth
Jayme stated that the biggest learning she had as a creative leader was building good relations with the client.
She explained, "This can be very powerful. We think differently and bring in a fresh point-of-view to solve their business problems. Clients appreciate the fact that we have this natural intuition in reading the consumers. This is because we observe, listen and truly care. Through the years I've had experiences of building brands from zero to becoming number one. Clients appreciate it when we think of creative ideas that help build their businesses. Clients look for creative leadership, someone to partner with, someone who can be real and someone who can navigate these uncertain times."
She had a message for young creatives before going on to share three adulting realisations:
"You have this breathing space and freedom to play, but eventually grow up and learn the business because this is preparing yourself for the future."
1: Love a client: Find a client you can love and when you love the brand you're working on, you don't mind working extra hours on it. This is the most powerful relationship in the marketing world.
2: Look at numbers: I know this doesn't interest creatives, but it's very important. When you look at your agency's P&L you get a better picture of what's happening at your agency and get to know how much you have contributed to the agency.
3: Create ideas that create results: I'm guilty about this but you have to show the same energy and excitement in making an idea come to life the same way in how effective it should be.
Creativity in times of uncertainty
Jayme then spoke about how creativity can help in terms of uncertainty.
Looking back at the great recession of 2008, Jayme said, "Overall ad spend fell by 13 per cent. Creatives became business minded overnight for clients. Survival was based on budgets becoming smaller and there was a stronger media landscape and focus on measurability. This changed the nature of advertising and effectiveness became the main goal of all work. If I remember the big winners of Cannes the following year - it wasn't the shiny work, it was the hard working best cases with the best results. Almost everyone is hoping in this industry that we will go back full force in Q3. But the question is how. There are no marketing formulas of the past. Now, the need to be distinctive is bigger than ever. The need for creative leadership is more relevant than ever. This goes beyond the creative department. It's everyone's task to start thinking and acting differently - this includes marketing heads, planners, account heads. The time has come to lead creatively if you want brands to come back."
She ended her talk by sharing three principles for creatives in the much spoken about 'new normal'.
1: Mind your business. Understand your business. Get into the shoes of the business owner and worry about his/her worries. Spot opportunities and solve problems in a fast, affordable and best way possible.
2: When everyone zigs, you zag. It's a very old phrase which still works. Many Covid films looked and sounded alike. We were all together doing the same thing. Anyone and everyone is making content. So you have to look for a particular insight that will be meaningful for the brand. Look for a different perspective. It'll make you stand out in the sea of possibility.
3: Get out of your comfort zone and get into your courage zone. The best way to describe this feeling of the unknown and excitement of doing something new is listen to David Bowie - 'If you feel safe in the area you're working in, you're not working in the right area. Always go further into the water than you're capable of being in. Be a little out of your depth.'
"9/11 back in 2001 gave us this innovation in aviation security, 3D CT scanners. SARS in 2002, pushed e-commerce and the rise of QR codes. Today, with smaller budgets, lesser touchpoints and hundreds of content being shared, we have to anticipate the change, be human and have to show empathy. We have to bring back creativity at the core of our business. That's the only way we can lead in the future," she surmised.