Free Will vs. Determinism: An Unexpected Lesson Regarding Digital and Traditional Creatives

Today felt markedly different at the agency.  We have something of a hot streak going lately, selling big ideas and innovative programs, particularly to clients that once resisted them.  For the first time in quite a while, the department is stretched very, very thin with people juggling assignments and deadlines.  A large portion of our creatives will work this weekend to keep up with the demand.  Better still, this work encompasses gaming, rich media banners, television, content, events, social media, radio, wild postings, couponing and probably another half dozen platforms that escape me now. 

"Unknown Caller" U2  No Line On the Horizon

"Unknown Caller" U2, No Line On the Horizon

But even as this sudden burst of reinvention elated me, it made me wonder: what changed?  What spurred this flurry of creative innovation?

And then it hit me: since losing the Pepsi brands, almost everyone that joined Element 79 when we bought a small digital company named Tractiv has left.  And that’s made all the difference.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t say this because those people were awful—–hardly.  To this day, I miss some of them terribly.  But that failed experience proved that buying digital specialists and expecting them to drive integration works about as well as hiring a surgical team and expecting them to run a wellness program. Much like surgeons love operating, digital specialists love doing digital work.  They couldn’t drive integration because they weren’t motivated by integration.  So they kept a separate name, separate e-mails and a separate unit within the agency.  In hindsight, the signs were obvious: just buying a digital company didn’t work for us.  I doubt it works for other agencies either.

That said, some of our best creatives today do boast strong digital backgrounds, even deep expertise.  And one extremely valuable team leader even remains from that original acquisition.  But none of these creatives are merely digital people.  They all think in convergence and so they represent the next evolution; not determined by their background, but rather inspired by it to become something totally new.

Platform agnostic, these converged creatives mingle and work easily with their traditionally-trained creative counterparts, encouraging them to evolve as well.  Because just as hewing to digital work limits a creative, clinging to traditional media stunts creative growth just as severely.  But by focusing on ideas not platforms, each expands the other’s imagination and occasionally invents entirely new combinations.  To me, that represents the bleeding edge of creativity—forging new, never before tried ideas through the clever melding of various disciplines.

No, digital creatives are not the future.

And traditional creatives certainly aren’t the future.

Converged creatives represent the future of advertising.  Creatives who use their free will to choose a new path for a changing industry.

And I am lucky to work with more and more of them every day.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

dennisr61684 says:

This is no surprise, coming from Mr. Convergence 2009. Blending like a Bass-O-Matic brother…

tom says:

Right On! Right On!
I’m a believer! Setting up digital silos within an agency is a so 2001. Blend or bleed. That’s what I say.

Julia says:

This blog reminds me of an Ad Age article a professor at MU made me read less than 3 weeks ago.

Jonah Bloom even used the term “agnoticism” as well.

Media neutrality = blank slate. Isn’t that where we were always supposed to begin? I’m glad your agency remembers that.

dougK says:

Well said. Couldn’t agree more on the energizing effect of the seamingly endless outlet to today’s creatives. When you start with the big idea, and not the media/tactic. (Conversely, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”) –dk