The point of creativity in business is to tell and/or sell.
For some reason, the statement above is seen (by many) as some kind of defamation of creativity. A bastardization of the what art is. The proverbial selling of the soul. That's stupid. And, it's wrong. Let's set the table first: creativity for the sake of being creative is fine. It's a right. Anyone can do oil painting in their garage, or pluck away at their guitar in their basement for the pure love of the activity. The arts are marvellous at curing what ails you. On the other hand, great creativity does inspire on other levels. Great creativity makes human beings curious, it makes them yearn to hear more, and it makes them take action. Creativity isn't just something for the pre-Internet era, either. It's profoundly linked to what makes one business more successful than another. Creativity drives our economy like never before.
Creativity is still core to business. Creativity is still core to a marketing agency's success.
Roger Dooley, pointed me to his latest contribution at Forbes magazine today. It's an article titled, They Is Gone, But Creativity Isn't, that tells the all-too-common tale of a fellow marketing agency that shut its doors, and what this means about the future of the marketing agency model. The agency was called, They, and this is what one of the founder's said...
"The whole traditional model doesn't work anymore. It's less about creativity and more about business results. There is not a lot of room to be creative."
Failing to see what is the opportunity and not the threat.
Without pointing fingers or being accusatory, I am hopeful that this quote was either taken out of context, or that there was more meat around it and it was edited to elicit a reaction like this one. If it wasn't, this quote may well illustrate why they're no longer in business, or what happens when artists try to put the art before the business. This isn't about traditional models or digital models, but basic business common sense. If your creativity doesn't drive business results, then what was the point of doing it in the first place? There was never much room in marketing for creativity with the singular purpose of creativity. That activity can better be defined as wasteful.
It's not about the data, analytics or KPIs, either.
We have always had different types of data. We have always had the ability to speak to the consumer, to better understand their needs. The idea that hyper-creative agencies can't survive in a world where we have metrics, doesn't point to a Mad Men vs. Math Men model at all. If anything, agencies are struggling because brands are bulking up on their own, internal, marketing capabilities, and are able to use a breadth and depth of data that used to only be accessible (or created) by the agency model. With that, many agencies have, simply, not added the right professionals and newer services to match the shifts in the industry, and how consumers connect to media.
An agency that only cares about creativity, isn't an agency.
That may be hurtful to read, but it's true. If you're running a marketing or advertising or public relations agency, and all you care about is creativity without any connection to business results, outcomes and - even - optimization, I'd rebrand that agency as an art studio. Again, nothing wrong with an art studio, but it's NOT a marketing agency. Creativity, inspiration, breakthrough work and the like do not get brushed beneath the carpet in a world where brands are (and should be) demanding better business results and more optimization. They run together - hand in hand. Great data, profound insights from analytics and focusing (like a bullseye) on business results is the exact way that agencies can be most creative. To exclude creativity as simply some kind of artistic endeavour that doesn't need to be attached to an endgame that is driving economic value to the brand is, simply put, bad business.
Make sure you know the business that you're in.