Mad Men was a great series, but much like those thrilling days of yesteryear it portrayed, it too, has vanished from the landscape.
If Don Draper were working in today’s ad business, there’s a good chance his business card wouldn’t read Sterling Cooper but instead one would find the Google, Apple or Facebook logos staring back at them.
Mr. Draper may have found enlightenment on a mountaintop, but today’s creatives rarely move beyond finding their Zen immersed in the tech world. The problem with modern innovation is that it is far too integrated with the nuts and bolts of the industry. The realities of today’s ad agency revolves around hard numbers and back end problems such as fighting procurement, dealing with difficult clients and continually proving your worth with creative jump balls. Is it any wonder why more chief creatives are looking from their corner cubicles toward Silicon Valley?
Look at the smaller agencies locally. What do they say about themselves? Chances are they also stick with the numbers. Number are good. Numbers are technology. Numbers add up which in ledger books means profit. However, numbers are not innovative. They only verify that something creative has worked.
Why are all the creatives leaving, vanishing, moving on, going elsewhere? No, it is Not the Money. For many who do make the leap, the appeal lies in the opportunity to do work that requires a different level of thinking or that can even change the world. The migration of young and seasoned talent to tech companies has been going on for years, but the loss of established old name, bold-name creative leaders to the Apples and the Googles is a newer and troubling trend for small to medium to large agencies.
As BSG, we can write about this subject in confidence. We have a creative team here that seems both challenged and settled enough to stay for the time being. That is good news for our clients and potential clients who seek to have that “edge.”
While there are no hard-and-fast numbers of how many top-level creatives are leaving agencies, the anecdotal evidence is there. “Every single day, we speak to chief creative officers who want to do something different,” said Jay Haines, founder of Grace Blue, an executive search firm that specializes in communications, advertising and media.
In March 2015, Google snapped up Lars Bastholm, previously global chief creative officer at Rosetta, as global chief creative officer of its in-house agency team, the Zoo. In January, Facebook hired former CP&B CEO and Exec Creative Director Andrew Keller as global creative director of the social network’s in-house agency, Creative Shop. The month before that, Tor Myhren, former Grey Worldwide chief creative officer and New York president, left the agency to join Apple as its VP-marketing communications.
Mr. Haines attributes some of the transitions to the “dramatic new era of creativity driven by the rise of disruption and shared-economy brands that have gone about innovation at speed and massive scale.” By contrast, he said, agencies historically have “operated in a linear way” that does not allow for deep-set innovation. Another motivator, according to Mr. Haines: an increased desire to make a difference in the broadest way possible.
Mr. Bastholm said one of the reasons he decided to join Google
after 20 years in advertising is because he wanted a new set of challenges. “I enjoy being a cog in a machine that is truly trying to change the world. I may not have the importance or the big office that I had when I was a chief creative officer in the agency world, but I feel like my work is contributing to something I wholeheartedly believe in,” he said.
On a smaller level, the team as Blue Sand Group feels much the same, changing the world a little bit at a time.
He described the Zoo as “Google’s creative think tank for brands and agencies. We help our clients think strategically about how to use digital in all its forms to achieve their marketing objectives with a bias toward, but not limited to, Google’s platforms, services and technologies. We mostly think about how to use technology in creative ways to solve high-level briefs or achieve strategic objectives,” he said. “We consider ourselves sparring partners in the process of making great work come to life.”
Are you ready to enter the digital ring and fight for a larger share of your industry?
If so, contact BSG today!