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Creative Evolution

  • February 5, 2001, 12:00 AM EST
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In an industry obsessed with size and capabilities, globalness and integration, mergers and acquisitions, a funny thing is beginning to happen. The focus is returning to the work. In fact, it's probably never been more important. Now that we all have the departments, resources and offices around the world, what else is there to separate us?

The beauty of our business versus many others is that our product is visible and tangible. People see our work, and they think it's intelligent. Or people see our work, and they think it's dumb. They think it's entertaining. Or they think it's boring.

When they see enough of it, they form an impression that defines what we are and what we stand for. And what we can do for them. Then and only then do all of the offices we have and the wonderful things we say we can provide have any real meaning.

But here's the catch. There are things you can acquire and things you can merge and things you can integrate overnight. A culture that consistently produces great creative isn't one of them.

From my experiences, I've learned two things. First, to build and maintain a creative culture requires years of constant nurturing and extreme vigilance. And second, creativity has nothing to do with size.

Flip through the Yellow Pages and you will find hundreds of small agencies whose work you'll be thankful to have never seen. Small does not equal great.

Take the largest agencies in the world and quickly try to name all of the truly great campaigns they have done in the past few years. Big does not equal great.

Great equals great.

The agencies with the best cre a tive leaders who can bring together and inspire the most talented people will do the best work. Period. And whether they are in an office with 1,000 people. Or an office with five.

Is it more difficult to build a creative culture in a huge agency? Absolutely.

There are more people to train and nurture. It's more difficult to translate values and communicate goals. It's easier for breakdowns in process and quality controls to insidiously creep in and go unnoticed. It's hard to find enough great people. It's hard to get to know all of those people well enough to push them and bring out the best in them. It's harder to make 500 great ads a year than it is to make 30. It's harder to create great campaigns across a broad range of clients than it is to have one or two showcase ac counts and 47 others that pay the bills.

Multiply that by a network, and it becomes even harder. But it can be done. And it must be done by any agency hoping to compete and win in this new world of parity resources.

The best and biggest global clients want the resources to provide seamless service. But more and more they will desperately need the creative strength and consistency to use those resources against. And not just in the form of big 30-second TV spots. But in the form of print, outdoor, radio, direct, interactive, even graphic design.

The ability to create perfectly integrated and translated mediocrity more efficiently and in more countries than anyone else is not what clients are looking for.

Global branding, yes.

Global blanding, no.

The difference between the two is the work.