“Creativity in our industry is not dying because creative people are becoming less creative. It’s because they’re increasingly being asked to behave like business people and to put business interests ahead of creative work.” So said David Kolbusz, Chief Creative Officer at Droga 5 in October’s edition of Campaign.
Patrick Collister, ECD of The Zoo at Google said in The Idea Podcast about the role of a CD “In many ways being a Creative Director is a totally undoable job…Expected not only to be a brilliant man-manager, a brilliant creative in your own right. A brilliant judge of creative work, you’re also expected to be this theatrical impresario who can present it faultlessly and flawlessly to clients who are impressed by your wit and wisdom but you’re also expected to understand P&L because there are times you’re going to have to be pragmatic about this.”
Working to budgets is as old as the ad industry itself. But more and more, the accountants appear to be deciding what happens, not by taking in an appreciation of the power of creativity but looking at what adjusting numbers in an Excel spreadsheet does to a bottom line. Marketing departments are hiring maths whizzkids just to keep the number crunchers at arms lengths and we agencies are having to follow suit.
Don’t be fooled for one minute though that just because you think we use crayons all day we can’t get our head around a balance sheet. Running your own business for near 15 years certainly teaches you how to manage budgets and understand the sharp edge of finance.
An article in Forbes magazine in 2015 stated the the role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) had transformed massively over the previous ten years: “It isn’t enough to make great ads. The channel, the media, the method, and an assortment of other decisions require more than just great creative. CMOs who are able to understand the ROI of all marketing activities will rise to the top of the “must recruit” list. The CMOs who understand attribution models and have an ability to understand which dollars to cut and where to invest to generate the highest ROI will become tomorrow’s marketing leaders – and I contend – firm leaders.”
That last bit is key but in order to be a CEO does the CMO need to become less marketable and more accountable.
The background of 55% of the FTSE 100 company leaders is in finance with 23% being chartered accountants, so it really is a struggle to see how the visionaries, the believers, the optimists can rise up and snatch the purse strings from the money men (and yes, they’re almost exclusively men with only seven women making the list, of which only one has a background in finance).
I recently wrote a list of 11 tips for new advertising students but sadly it looks like I need to add a twelfth: Learn to use Excel.
All sounds a bit depressing doesn’t it but I’ll leave you with two very different glimmers of hope.
The new Warburtons ad starring Peter Kay follows in the footsteps of The Muppets and Stallone. Whatever you think to the creative, you can’t dispute that this is a company believing in the power of advertising and investing in it. The key word is conviction – believing wholeheartedly in an idea so that customers lock into one, big, confident message.
Then there’s the sublime new Audi clown commercial. A wonderful idea executed beautifully to perfection. An agency and client really caring about the output and making sure that what went out the door was the best it could possibly be.
Both deserve to be laughing all the way to the FD.