December 16, 2013

Building the creative professional of tomorrow

The creative director of the future needs a different skill set — he or she will need to come out of the ranks of public relations, social media and interactive digital.

The creative director of the future needs a different skill set — he or she will need to come out of the ranks of public relations, social media and interactive digital.

In 2009, there was a terrific documentary on advertising called Art & Copy. It’s an inspirational film that celebrates the most influential creative professionals of the past five decades. And there is something very telling in the title. Most of today’s creative directors rose out of the ranks of art director and copywriter — art and copy. In the era of print, TV and radio, this made perfect sense.

But if, like me, you are one of those creative directors, you may find recent trends to be frightening. Broadcast television ratings have been going down for decades. Newspapers and magazines are struggling to survive. Broadcast radio is competing with iPods and Internet radio. And now, here come the Millennials. This generation is larger than the boomer generation. The oldest of them are entering their 30s. In the next 10 years, they will start to dominate as consumers, employees and clients. Not only do they distrust paid mass media advertising, they’re finding it easier than ever to avoid it completely.

So how do we talk to this audience? We can no longer just broadcast our brand messages at them; we need to invite them to engage with our brands. To do this, we need to go where they are already conversing — online. They do value third-party endorsements and the opinions of their peers. So, we need to get press coverage and use online media creatively.

The problem is that these “social” campaigns aren’t driven by the traditional headline and visual. The creative director of the future needs a different skill set — he or she will need to come out of the ranks of public relations, social media and interactive digital. The next great social media idea doesn’t need a headline. The next great viral video doesn’t need design. Those of us who strived in our careers to be the next Leo Burnett or George Lois are seeing our beloved industry change in front of our eyes. But clients are starting to ask for this type of marketing. Within the next ten years they will start demanding it. Teaching old dogs some new tricks is step one. But finding young people with creative talent and expertise in these areas — and developing them into great creative professionals — will be the defining challenge for today’s agencies.

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