Much to my surprise this year, Ad Age introduced A-List with the following:
“On this list you will find shops that focus on culture, consumer experience, commerce, CRM, business transformation, design and more. This is an age where the term “creative agency” is anachronistic; no matter what their specialty, the shops on this list pour creativity into their disciplines using all the tools at their disposal to connect consumers with brands.”
Despite the increased focus on data and performance over the last few years, our industry is still creativity obsessed. Don’t get me wrong. It matters. It’s often a brand’s greatest differentiator. But there are ways to be creative that aren’t beautiful brand films, funny spots or stunts, and despite a lot of rhetoric around this, our industry is still in the nascent stages of truly acting on this insight.
Our business is a commercial one. We are hired to help our clients succeed and, whatever effort we recommend, to ultimately drive more revenue and profit.
Transformation is the Mt. Everest of business. The businesses that remain relevant year after year, decade after decade, have transformation at their core - their products, business models, marketing, and more. For the agencies that support these businesses and those that aspire to be like them, transformation is the hardest thing to do. It takes a mix of bravery, creativity, and intelligence that few possess. It takes enormous commitment and sacrifice and requires collaboration across business units, capabilities, and partners. There are not that many teams that embody a transformation mindset, and that’s why there are just not that many breakthrough transformation stories.
A successful transformation starts with buy-in and leadership from the CEO and board wherein the CEO serves as the Chief Transformation Officer. They must be comfortable hearing uncomfortable truths, and I have found that it’s best for hard truths to come from outside agency partners.
To be trusted to deliver those messages, agencies need the people, skills, tools, and thinking to create value and hold their own with the CEO and board. They need to know their way around audiences, data, and technology so they can serve as a real business partner. On top of that, they need to be capable of simple, masterful storytelling and experience design. The story and experience is what brings it all together. All of this is what we at GALE define as Creativity.
Providing brands with powerful business, creative, and technology answers in equal measure is the vision of our company and the promise of holding companies and consultancies.
That’s why I want to thank Ad Age for redefining what a “creative agency” is today and for recognizing the work that GALE does as great creative even if it doesn’t take shape the way we’re used to in this industry.
Rewarding transformation pushes our industry forward and refusing to delineate this work as not “creative” challenges all of us to be better creative AND business partners. When we do that, we make ourselves as brand partners indispensable. We make agency people the people you call to solve your most complex business problems. We get creativity in all its forms invited into the boardroom where it belongs and can do the most good.