How The ‘Lost Generation’ Of Creative Can Be Found, By The Next Generation

How can creative people of different ages work together for the best results?

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How can creative people of different ages work together for the best results?


How The ‘Lost Generation’ Of Creative Can Be Found, By The Next Generation

How can creative people of different ages work together for the best results?

Share this article

Media consumption habits have changed dramatically over the past five years, and as ad budgets shift from TV to print and radio, to digital and then back again, there’s a widening divide between advertising’s traditional TV heartland and its digital, automated future.

It’s fair to say that the resulting divide in skillsets is creating a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Let’s start with the primary driver of seismic change, not just in the marketing landscape, but for business across the board: the fluctuating digital jungle which we all now inhabit.

UK smartphone browsing overtook desktop and laptop surfing for the first time ever this year, according to eMarketer’s Time Spent with Media forecast. This is a major development, and coupled with TV ad-spend’s first drop in eight years, it signals a shift in modus operandi.

In adland, which creates the majority of the brand-led content we all consume, what we have right now are young creatives who are digitally cultured but don't understand brands and core messaging to its full extent; and senior brand makers who know brands inside-out but struggle when it comes to understanding the nuances of digital.

The latter have been referenced numerous times in recent years. Unilever CMCO Keith Weed described them as the ‘lost generation’, whereas Rapp’s global CEO Alexei Orlov suggests that “the actual model is changing.” The fact is, though, it’s not the model that needs to change. It’s the people.

Marketing’s generational divide

The reason for this separation is simple enough: generational differences.

Traditional creatives hold the keys to the big ideas. They’ve always had them. They refuse to relinquish them, determined that their method is the only method.

They might not warm to a certain new technology or platform, regressing instead of embracing change – pushing to erase or limit social media spend being a prime example. They don’t fully realise the potential these outlets can achieve if they invest, instead sticking with what they know. This is reckless at best and completely unsustainable at worst.

The stats show that this approach can’t continue. Brands themselves spend between 25 and 43 per cent of their marketing budget on content, yet only 23 per cent of CMOs feel they are producing the right information for the right audience, and delivering it at the right time and in the correct format.

That chasm of numbers is stark, but it doesn’t mean that digital culturalists are the irrefutable truth. While possessing the know-how to utilise the latest tech and comms methods, the old-fashioned act of devising content for physical distribution, or even just picking up the phone is an alien concept.

The skills accrued from working in the tangible world of yesteryear can’t be replicated overnight.

Bridging the gap

Integration is essential. Of course, the term ‘integrated agency’ has been around for a while, and on paper most agencies are integrated. But to truly integrate, there has to be a mutual respect and single P&L between the two camps. If not, it becomes tribal.

Certain divisions won’t share things with another because it’s not in their best interest, and it becomes a vicious circle that’s far from the all-encompassing, expert marketing solutions an integrated agency – or any agency– is supposed to offer.

If real integration occurs, and we pool the best of both worlds into one real collective, then the way forward will be much clearer. To do this, though, creative agencies need to actually get creative.

For example, 54 per cent of users don’t click banner ads because they don’t trust them. It’s an old form of storytelling. It doesn’t work as effectively on newer platforms.

For example, six in 10 of the 500 most followed brands online used emojis in their tweets in the fourth quarter of 2015. It’s an instant, descending form of storytelling, reaching the point in 5 seconds.

Agencies can learn from this. By adopting this approach, it shows a willingness to change, to combine the best parts of your workforce.

Now or never

There will obviously be trepidation from both sides. Employees familiar with the traditional approach don’t want to change, while digital culturalists are convinced that the former’s approach is old hat, therefore completely defunct. Neither of these are correct.

The combination of both thought processes will allow for flexibility and repeatable models. People within the agency, from both sides, can not only duplicate but appropriate ideas, altering them to suit whatever campaign, demographic or timescale is appropriate.

Constructing a repeatable model with room for growth is the ultimate compromise between the two breeds within an agency. It can then be taken to marketers, to which it can then be flexed to their whim.

The reason to act now can be seen from afar, looking at the impact digital has had on other industries. FMCG is the obvious example, being a laggard when it comes to digital transformation and adaptation.

The concept of ordering online took a while to truly gestate, and it’s still far from perfect – only two years ago, a mere 2 per cent of the silent generation, 4 per cent of baby boomers and 10 per cent of Generation X were using a virtual supermarket.

That being said, global online FMCG sales actually grew by 26 per cent in 2016 – the industry has moulded to the modern consumer.

If FMCG has managed to adapt, scheduled TV has no excuse. It’s a charming yet now archaic medium, with many younger – and older – viewers opting for unscheduled, unrestricted viewing to match their lifestyles.

Even digital platforms have had to change. Facebook has become a mobile immigrant, moving from desktop and playing to the newest technologies’ strengths. And it worked – 84 per cent of the social media giant’s 2016 fourth-quarter revenue came from mobile.

This couldn’t have happened with just digital thinking, nor would it have succeeded without some traditional tactics along the way.

If both sides of the industry work together, those wet behind the ears aiding others with countless years under their belts, then something genuinely special can happen. By limiting whom they employ and what practices they focus on, agencies will not only miss out on the future – they’ll consign themselves to the past.

Brian Cooper is chief creative officer of OLIVER Group UK.

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How The ‘Lost Generation’ Of Creative Can Be Found, By The Next Generation

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