Execs Discuss the Future of Creativity

NEW YORK How can agencies achieve creative excellence today and in the future? Top creatives attempted to answer that question today at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Creative Conference, part of the Advertising Week celebration.

David Lubars, newly named chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO North America, presided over the general session and discussed his impressions of the New York agency scene since joining the shop in June.

Noting that the community is in need of a creative revival, he said he hopes to make the agency “an oasis” for creativity on the island of Manhattan, and he invited competing agencies to join him. “When the tide comes in, all the boats rise higher,” he said.

New York shops must expand “the colors of the palette,” Lubars said, to include non-traditional ventures such as BMW Films, the Internet project he spearheaded at Fallon in Minneapolis, and the live soccer billboard in Tokyo created by TBWA for Adidas.

Lee Garfinkel, chairman and chief creative officer at DDB in New York, said no matter the size of the agency, talented people can still create great work. What really kills good creative, he said, is a lack of role models, even business role models. He encouraged people to have the “courage to be different,” and to make the sixth round of work for the client as compelling as the first round.

Ewen Cameron, CEO of Berlin Cameron/Red Cell in New York, said strategy remains an essential part of creating great campaigns. “Strategy isn’t a road map or a springboard to an idea. It is the idea,” he said. He illustrated his points with two examples from his shop. For Coca-Cola, an emphasis on winning back teen consumers led to the “Real” campaign starring teenagers and celebrities. And in an effort to connect Boost Mobile with the urban market, the agency commissioned hip-hop artists to create a song, “Where You At,” for a TV spot. (The effort proved so popular, a bootleg version of the song has ended up on radio stations.)

Crispin Porter + Bogusky chairman Chuck Porter detailed the work the shop has done for Burger King. While some thought the agency was “entering the world of bite and smile” by taking on the fast-food chain account, the shop saw it as an opportunity to create work that plays off pop culture. To date, ads for the client have parodied everything from Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction (in a spot that ran once showing an office worker with a similar nipple ring), the Atkins Diet (“Dr. Angus” ads for the Angus Burger) and fashion designers (“Ugoff” ads touting BK’s salad pouch). He also detailed how CP+B created a mini-fad with its Subservient Chicken Web site. “You never know what’s going to stick,” Porter said, “but it’s worth trying because sometimes it sticks in a really big way.”

Finally, David Droga, worldwide chief creative director at Publicis, spoke about the challenges he faces trying to raise the creative bar at a large global agency. “There’s no formula,” he admitted, saying one thing he wanted to do is “staff the agency with people who are not afraid to be fired. That scares the pants off [Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice] Levy,” he said to laughter.

Droga said he had inaugurated a global creative board during his 15 months at the Paris-based agency network and used an example of Hewlett-Packard work done in the London office as proof that the shop “internally can be nimble.” The project, rolling out now in Paris and coming soon to New York, was an art gallery installation in London that allowed artists to create and display work inspired by the letters “H” and “P.”

Afternoon breakout sessions included a panel on interactive creativity moderated by Adweek interactive editor Ann M. Mack, a talk on developing “kick-ass” creative by Marty Orzio, chief creative officer at BBDO in Chicago, and a talk on integrated multichannel production by chairman, CEO and CCO of R/GA in New York, Robert Greenberg. The conference concludes tomorrow.

—with Eleftheria Parpis