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Is over specialisation killing creativity?

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From influencers to social and audio only, there’s been a proliferation of niche agencies in the last few years. While specialists are always going to be necessary, consumers now have more touchpoints than ever before.

So, are brands at risk of being short-changed by single channel creative briefs?

Broadening out the brief

For a long time, agency networks were seen as a way of bringing numerous skillsets into the mix without the hassle of managing lots of different agencies. With disciplines split into separate financial reporting centres within the agency, however, it would often depend on which division you were speaking to as to what marketing solution you would be offered.

Overall this has led to marketing campaigns that are either myopic in focus or fragmented to the point where each element fails to work together.

Creativity on the other hand is often at its best when approached from multiple perspectives, allowing for expansive thinking. There’s never only one way to answer a marketing brief and not every customer journey starts and ends online. To take full advantage of this, agencies need to have a mix of specialties with experts all working towards the same goal. Having this mix builds trust with clients and allows both parties to have open and frank discussions, which lead to more impactful solutions.

We recently pitched against a large social-only agency, in response to a global brief from a blue chip brand. To bring the campaign to life and maximise its reach we created a physical installation. Our response incorporated experiential, web and social activations and I’m pleased to say that the expansiveness of our ideas helped us to secure the brief. That was only possible thanks to close collaboration with the client to fully understand the brief and objectives and a mindset that drove us to look beyond a single channel solution.

The creative approach

What allows us at Giants and Titans to secure big brand briefs is our approach to creativity. Here are my tips on delivering the best creative ideas and how that process can be helped by a flexible brief.

Don’t force it

I feel very privileged being a creative. It’s not a ‘normal’ job and so shouldn’t be treated like one. You can’t force creativity out when you first step in the office at 9am and expect results at 10am - there’s not an on/off switch. Scientists say the creative mind is more productive in the afternoon when it has had a chance to loosen up. We’re all different, but as in any walk of life, you’re not going to find the best solution with someone standing over you demanding results.

Take a walk

It’s difficult finding the golden answer looking at a computer screen all day. Get out and about. Change your environment, walk, talk, visit things, experience stuff, really what I’m saying is get your mind thinking openly. You subconsciously think about ideas and the best ones appear probably when you least expect it. More often than not, both me and the wider team find our best ideas sitting on the train, at the gym, or even doing a spot of DIY.

Expand the idea

When you have an initial idea it then needs expanding. This is where a broader brief or a close collaboration with the client can have a big impact. We have a big whiteboard in the office and sometimes it’s good to rock up, start writing and sticking sources of inspiration up. Take what’s in your head and blurt it all out - right or wrong. Try and get some traction with the idea, get it moving, it’s like ‘flubber’ with a life of its own so give it some freedom. Explore it, pull it, bend it, test how far it will go.

Bring other people in

There’s no magic wand to creative, give it the chance to breathe and explore. It’s vital to bounce ideas off others even if they don’t have ‘creative’ in their job title. Everybody is creative in their own way and everyone can have an input and help expand a really strong idea.

Allow for flexibility in the brief

The brief is an integral part of delivering the right solution. Creativity needs direction to reach its goal and that’s true in all businesses. This hasn’t changed from the Mad Men days to now. It’s essential that the brief has been through the wringer so we have clear objectives to align to, but that doesn’t mean the brief as a whole needs to remain static. As an agency, we take the approach that the client relationship starts in that first meeting allowing us to gain an understanding of the business and its objectives in order to be able to question the brief and act as a partner to solve problems together.

Specialisation of course has its place in specific tasks where you’re looking to get from A to B, but to take advantage of the very best creative ideas, marketers need to broaden out their briefs and look for an agency with which they can have a true partnership. The world is moving faster and is more demanding. Brands need to have a smarter approach to the creative process that allows for deliberation, expansive thinking and collaboration from the start.

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Paul Brookes is creative director and co-founder of creative agency Giants and Titans.

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