Click NY: death of the creative department?

One of the highlights of yesterday’s Click NY conference was a panel discussing the future of the ad industry, which threw up the prospect of the end of the agency creative department

(Left to right, Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship, Robert Holzer of Syrup, Ty Montague of JWT North America, Tom Sacchi of Unit9, MIke Geiger of Goodby Silverstein and Lars Bastholm of Ogilvy at Click NY)

One of the highlights of yesterday’s Click NY conference was a panel discussing the future of the ad industry, which threw up the prospect of the end of the agency creative department

Do ad agencies need creative departments? It may sound like sacrilege but, stop and think for a moment. Campaigns are becomng increasingly complex, requiring a range of skills that one agency cannot hope to have completely covered in-house and certainly not by the best exponents all the time. The copywriter/art director team is increasingly seen as outmoded with many agencies bringing bigger teams together to work on projects. Creatives are expensive and can leave at any moment to go to a rival.

Ty Montague (who is co-president and chief creative officer of JWT North America so he has a major interest here) wondered aloud whether you “could outsource the whole creative department” so that the agency becomes just about working out the strategy, then choosing the best creative freelancers to come up with concepts and execute whatever needs to be done.

This, pointed out Lars Bastholm of Ogilvy, is how movies are made. But as yet there is no culture of doing that in advertising. Perhaps, he suggested, if everyone fired their creative departments overnight, it would create the requisite talent pool but, as others on the panel pointed out, there could be massive problems in finding the right people to work on the right project at the right time. Hollywood could do it because the industry is largely based in one place and is used to working in this way on relatively few projects each year. Advertising is spread all over the world and working on thousands of campaigns.

So the wholesale culling of creative departments may not happen any time soon but it is an indicator of how much uncertainty there is in the agency world that such an idea could even be entertained.

Bastholm summed up what many in the room were thinking with this

Check Twitter here for more thoughts on the day

Click London is on November 12. Details here

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