Agency Life: What it means to be creatives of the future
by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) With all the new buzzwords, it may seem as if creatives have to make a dramatic change to stay relevant, but here are a few tips to help make the transition from old-school to a creative of the future.
There was a time when creative roles were simple and straightforward. Copywriters were the wordsmiths, art directors were artwork and layout specialists, and designers were visual artists. If you worked on TVCs, radio, print and outdoor, you were an above-the-line creative, and in-store, direct mail, activations, etc were the domain of below-the-line creatives. But then brands started looking for a full-service offering and agencies switched from the traditional way of doing things and creative roles to through-the-line thinking. Then the digital age came into full swing, and there was a split between main agency (TTL) and digital creatives.
It used to be that digital was a request at the end of a brief. Now, everyone realises that digital isn’t just something you throw in list of elements to make a 360º campaign. This means that creatives no longer have a simple and straightforward role but rather have to be multidisciplinary and approach work with a media-agnostic mindset in order to create integrated work that engages people at every touch point.
Know what people are into
Visit the market. Go to the comedy show that everyone is talking about. Check out the new restaurant that people are flocking to.
By being immersed in what people are into at the moment, you’ll gain real insights from the people that you’re trying to reach. You’ll also get a chance to observe how they consume content and the kind of things they share. Without a solid insight, there’s a huge chance that your campaign, no matter how much you push it, will fall flat because it’s not relevant or relatable.
On the flip side, great insights have the potential to engage people in a way that may make a campaign loved and shared. Getting into your target audience’s mindset in real life, not theoretically, you’ll find it easier to come up with ideas and ways to engage with them in a way that makes sense in their world.
Learn some new tricks
Don’t just stick to what you know. Speak with developers to have a general understanding of what is or isn’t possible in the backend. Work closely with your strategists to turn refined research and strategic platforms into unique insights. Find out what it takes to launch a successful activation.
The more skills you have in your creative toolbox, the easier it will be to think across channels. Before you know it, you won’t just be a copywriter, art director or designer but a versatile can-get-anything-done creative superstar.
When you get a brief — whether it’s TV, radio, digital, or social content — instead of thinking of an execution that meets the requirements, rather think of an idea that can work across multiple channels.
A big idea gives you the flexibility to create work that is tailor-made and uniquely executed for each medium while still communicating the same core message. By starting with the idea, even a simple brief may be amplified and become a fully integrated campaign.
The main objective of any brief is to solve a business challenge, and a big idea may also help you find a platform that will have the most impact for the particular challenge you’re solving for. You might find that a TVC brief might work better as content on social media, or a web banner may have more reach as an outdoor campaign.
In a nutshell, having a big idea gives you more opportunities to explore unique and creative solutions.
The best creatives today are the ones who don’t operate in silos based on expertise but whjo collaborate, broaden their skillset, and continuously learn. It does take a shift in the way you approach things but, once you get into it, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t been doing it all along.
TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is an award-winning senior copywriter at FCB Africa with several years of experience in the advertising industry. More than a writer, he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things; and he once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs. TJ contributes the regular “Agency Life” column, in which he gives career advice for working within the advertising industry, to MarkLives.