The economy is flat, supply side efficiencies have been maximized, consumers are becoming demanding, the competition is getting fiercer and quarterly revenue performance pressures are only rising. No wonder then, at this very moment in history, a creative renaissance is under way in the brand business.
But, instead of celebrating this movement, some of us argue on the narrow ownership rights of this changing landscape. We scrap like little children on whether digital agencies have a greater resonance with this transformation over conventional creative agencies.
Here is a ‘zoomed out’ point of view, that outlines the challenges and the possible solutions to this artificial altercation.
Everyone recognises that the nature and style of creativity is changing. Earlier brands specialised in story telling that reached many audiences. Now the same brands have to get every single consumer to tell their stories to other people. We could call it a shift from a centralised brand message to a decentralized brand narrative. Everyone is learning this new language, whether it be a digital agency or a creative agency.
Digital media allows for precise targeting and hence, impactful messaging. However, to realise this potential of digital media, it is necessary to make multiple pieces of targeted content. Most brands are still grappling with executing this first necessity of producing multiple content in an efficient way.
Among sophisticated marketers, there is a rising murmur of disenchantment with digital marketing. They are not turning out to be the magical silver bullet for revenue, that it was made out to be. There is a realization that, for this revenue promise to be delivered, it is equally critical that all the multiple digital assets are true to a singular brand voice that creates increased consumer preference.
To summarise, we are at a cusp of time where both language and delivery of creativity is undergoing transformative change. To ride this disruption, the marketer needs to realize that the separation of digital and creative is a false and ineffective separation. Either one independently (or in isolation) will be unable to deliver business results.
When this evolution happens, the enlightened ones within marketing and communications would realise that digital agencies and creative agencies need to be one and the same.
Digital is a unique way to influence the new-age consumer. But the end goal of all communications in helping this consumer make better choices remains the same. This is why data and digital media thinking needs to be infused into our creative briefs. Equally, all creative content remains true to a singular brand voice. This helps the brand focus on more impactful narratives to increase brand preference in a channel-agnostic way.
Invariably the question comes down to “who is better placed to deliver such narratives?” There are many claimants out there - digital agencies, marketing consultants, media agencies, culture content agencies, in-house creative teams to name a few.
But great marketers have always known that creativity is a function of the talent that creates brave work within an environment that allows this brave work to be conceived. This deserves to be repeated. Great cross-category talent in a thriving creative environment helps make for disruptive culture-creating brand platforms better than any other.
The last word on this? The premise of the digital agency and the creative agency being two different and separate entities has lived well past its expiry date. It’s time to move on.
(The author is chief strategy officer, TBWA India)