What does it mean to deliver creative and marketing value in 2017?


Whatever our role – client, or agency-side – we are tasked every day with delivering value and making an impact to the bottom line.

The old way of delivering creative services and solutions revolved around setting up teams and services and that would tick the right boxes under the category of ’things being done’ that others do.

Often this involved long timelines and cycles, with large teams, and comparatively large budgets. Or comparatively smaller ‘boutique’ teams with even larger budgets, for the ‘platinum’ service.

There was good here in that creativity was valued, afforded a central role. Clients understood that it takes deep creative thinking to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, to make customers understand or care what makes your product or company different. To inject your brand with a distinct identity, and to execute it with a consistency of application and purpose that will give it roots and resonance.

Things have changed. Marketing and brand departments are smaller and people are tasked with doing and delivering more – often with less time. The budgets for marketing and advertising are not what they once were. The Cadillac is now often a Smart Car.

Directors and Marketing Managers want to spend less, and they want evidence of effectiveness for what they do invest in.

This has resulted in a shift towards metrics-oriented digital marketing, which has resulted in a Wild West of SEO/SEM and social/blog entities who offer to tick the boxes in new world version of ‘things being done’ that others do.

Often what is missing here is the level of strategy around brand and creativity that was the hallmark of the old world. Without a full end-to-end vision of how everything connects, centred on creative innovation that aligns with business objectives, it becomes a world of sporadic and fragmented efforts across a variety of platforms and applications.

Some might argue that the old Mad Men world of ‘big ideas’ died because of it’s own grandiosity and pretense – now being seen through a different lens. And of course, because of budgets.

Some would argue that the new digital world has no soul, that it is too metrics focused – that big-picture creative and communications strategy is undervalued.

I would argue that the best of both worlds can still be had.

I have often heard that on the client side, there exists ongoing frustration with the way the creative and marketing services are delivered by Big Box creative vendors. Perhaps sometimes, a sense of entitlement on the part of the Agency. Often, the people executing the service are not the ‘A-team’ who sold it. They might be B, or, C, or D. Their level of understanding, or experience, or personal investment, cannot be the same. The culture and processes are rooted in a way of thinking that reflects the Agency’s world-view more so than the customers. Sometimes client-side product and marketing managers feel they are not heard, or understood.

Often, when issues or gaps in strategy are identified, there is no effort to guide the client in the resolution of those gaps. Unless the client can be upsold.

Entitlement is truly the kiss of death. Pageantry in articulation and presentation will no longer pass for value if it cannot be shown to deliver results.

All the moving parts of a well-designed end-to-end digital marketing initiative, working together, can and should be rooted in vigorous analysis against overall business and brand objectives. When smoke and mirrors are replaced by empirical data – purpose, soul and deep thinking should still be evident.

Perhaps amidst the shifting sands of the current landscape there lies an opportunity here – to redefine how we drive the bottom line without sacrificing our higher aspirations around authenticity and creativity.

Add a dash of humility to the mix, and you’ll find you just might enjoy the ride.