Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Hey you got creative in my technology!" "Hey you got technology in my creative!"

Advancing technology will continue to impact creative services firms and the people within them. Remember the ad for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups? The point was two separate elements could come together to create something new. Technology has changed many things about the creative services world. First and foremost it is a compression agent. Technology has compressed the services agencies provide and it has compressed the time frames to delivery and the preconceived costs to deliver.

What this means is, that now media buying, creative design, account management, production traffic, client billing, concepting, approvals, results tracking, list management, are all compressing to a tight delivery window to the client - blurring the distinction and silos? Clients are demanding more seamless and integrated services.

This means that creative services firms can no longer "create from a single prospective..." Design and technology are only one
¾th of the mix. How does the design function, can you capture data, track results? Can you target the exact buyer? Strategy and creative are being compressed with the introduction of new technologies. Coming at a client need via one approach levels the agency flat and unresponsive to the bigger picture. The same holds true for the agency that comes at the problem 100% technology based. Success will be in: Team Environment - Creative Technology Solutions - Market Savvy and design that hits the market (not over or under).

The demands of the future will be on dealing with the compassion factor of time and creative demands. The issue is; how to meet the needs of the client base, while keeping the organization functioning at a level that is not killing it. Miracles can happen within a creative environment, but how many and how often before you burn out a person, a team or the creative spark?

The future role of a leader within a creative services firm will be that of interior. One that can take many different demands, many different people and skill sets and bring them together as one focused response and voice to a clients need.

A few years back I had the opportunity to witness two different groups get together and talk about a client’s needs. The first was the current reincarnation of the "creative type" the "big cheese wiz" creative leader. Ponytail, earrings and attitude out the wahzoo. He was introduced as a new age "design God"  with the ability to take creative to new technologies. On the other side of the table was a classic shorthaired, glasses, and paper pad carrying technology leader. Shy with no attitude, he was a published iPhone App and programming guru.

Two totally different worlds coming together. In the first few moments that they began to speak they realized they had some ability to understand each other, when it came to technology - almost like those that took Spanish in High School who go to Mexico can kind of understand the high-level gist of the conversation. But once you get into local dialects and meanings, they are lost.

After ten minutes it was obvious that neither side was going to be able to make the bridge. As the classic technology gearhead keep saying, "I don’t understand where he (the creative guy) is coming from..." Quickly it became obvious that someone needed to act as the translator, the interpreter of the meaning, goals and issues to the two separate groups. These interactions will continue to grow. What one needs to realize is, the equation creative services firms will be operating under is:

Creativity      X      Technology
Freedom                Discipline

While these might seem to be at odds with each other the fact is, once a creative agency has gotten a sense of where its strengths and weaknesses are, it can manage them and correct them with this formula. The next 20 years will be about the challenge of keeping up with technology costs and changes - converting them into profitable client business. It will also be about how to stay creative and connected to the client and the client’s end users.

It will also be important to bring creative team members into direct contact with clients and client IT. Yes, a scary thought to some, but technology and speed require shortening the distance between the client and the creative.

Technology will become an integral part of the creative process beyond design technologies, and grow into CRM and company wide technologies where a client can actually track the specific results from a campaign – hard metrics – not soft feelings.

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