Why do we need creative champions in media? | M&M Global

Why do we need creative champions in media?

Jen Smith, global creative director at Maxus, outlines why the media industry should adopt a new way of thinking about creativity.  

Jen Smith, global creative director, Maxus
Jen Smith, global creative director, Maxus

It seems incredible to me that there’s still any conversation to be had about the purpose of creativity in media. With the smorgasbord of touchpoints and converging, dynamic new media paths we can now use to deliver messages this is, without question, the most exciting time to be getting creative with media. Ever.

So strong are my convictions about innovating in media that I proposed the role of global creative director at my workplace, Maxus, so we can ignite more of the brave, inventive, problem-solving work that clients are clamouring for.

And this move prompted lots of curiosity and a fair amount of questions about what it means to have a creative job title in a media agency.

After all, creativity is housed by name and nature in creative agencies. There, it’s given time and space to flourish. It is protected and has dedicated people assigned to developing it. And not only is it housed there, but rewarded and remunerated there too, as creative executions undoubtedly should be. Who else could achieve the artistry, craft the tone and texture that brings an idea to visceral life, that can make the hairs on the back of your neck actually stand on end?

Anyway, why would we in media shops want to assign time to ideas when they are the one thing we give away for free? This is without doubt a challenging time to work in communications across the board. It’s hard, it’s competitive – timelines and resourcing pressures are tighter than ever.

Who owns ideas? Who cares?

By and large, media people have a creative bent and want to be part of an inspiring, creative industry. I for one, did not get into advertising because I wanted to spend my days writing press plans and post campaign analyses. And I can affirm that beautiful ideas don’t happen exclusively in creative shops. We all benefit from collaborating.

Going one step further, the more inclusive and less protective we can make the process of garnering ideas, the wider we cast the net. While most of them will ultimately be discarded, we’re bound to catch more gems amongst them. It isn’t rocket science. Why can’t we all embrace a communications idea that lives in media, rather than quibble over who owns it, if it will help us achieve our collective brief?

“For me, the exciting bit has always been translating this structure into a media execution that can be at once functional, playful or beautiful”

The Lego Movie ad break takeover, where four back-to-back ads were screened, all made from Lego, is a prime example of a media idea so brilliant in its simplicity that it had some of the snootier awards judges debating its worthiness and originality. Not so at Cannes, thankfully, because until PHD stepped up and created that campaign, nobody had seen it through to (brilliant) delivery. And we all know that making it happen is the hard bit.

Media’s role in the ‘making it happen’ bit is now super complex. We have strategists drawing up our foundational blueprints, and planners who now require huge depth of channel knowledge. For me, the exciting bit has always been translating this structure into a media execution that can be at once functional, playful or beautiful.

Cast the ideas net far and wide

An idea which somebody has taken the time to construct and had the balls to share should never be slammed, no matter how awful it is.

It’s so much more advantageous to all involved when senior people deign to show empathy, respect and positivity to those starting out in our industry. It also enriches the quality of work. If all that clients want or expect from their media investment is someone to stand up and deliver frequency and reach at the end of each meeting, what a waste of potential that would be.

So that’s the why of needing creative champions in media, what about the how? Two priorities for me at Maxus are to democratise ideas and to celebrate and share the great work that’s already being produced.

Creativity is also part of the mix of a vibrant agency culture, the inspiration behind some of the creative training and development initiatives we’re rolling out, beginning with a programme called Flare. Sharing all of our learnings is at the core, with participants strongly encouraged to blog, upload YouTube videos, contribute to an Ideas Library and begin to create a global community of brilliant, bonkers ideas that can deliver for clients.

Having a creative role in media is a steep learning curve, for me and everyone around me – so please do keep the questions coming! Ultimately, my KPI is to create a culture that fosters healthy, constructive debate and gives birth to brilliant work, no matter who had the idea.

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