The creative duo is a foursome. Plus one.

by Emanuele Nenna , Now Available

I’m not the only one who says that the creative duo is no longer enough. You can see it everywhere – in books by advertising theorists and in declarations by the gurus of the profession. In her recent book The Idea Writers, Teressa Iezzi quotes Benjamin Palmer of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, who goes so far as to say: “We won't get very far in this day and age with that team [copywriter and art director].”

The time has come to acknowledge that the world really has changed and to propose new solutions.

The backdrop to this is what many define as the Post-Digital Age: the age in which the explosion of the digital world has forever changed rules, relationships, behaviour, media, values and attitudes. Others refer to this as the Consumer Control Era.

From the early 1900s there were two main types of advertisements: those that relied on the persuasive power of text and those that resembled works of art. They often complemented one another, but they were not devised in tandem. Toulouse Lautrec was an art director, but he didn’t work as part of a duo.

At a certain point, however, someone (generally acknowledged as Bill Bernbach in 1949) realized that the creative individual had less potential than two minds brainstorming. This is what spawned the creative revolution: not so much two professionals with complementary skills sharing an office, but the magic that two different viewpoints and two different sensibilities would create. The Creative Team was born.

More than sixty years have elapsed since then, and advertising has changed a lot. Of course, as with any trade, the professions of art director and copywriter have evolved. But my theory about the extended duo isn’t limited to the evolution of art directors and copywriters as species. It begins with the idea that the creative team is not two elements, but an autonomous entity. It is the entity that needs to evolve, not just the individuals.

You may be aware that, today, most communication budgets are invested in sales promotions. Rarely are the names of famous creative directors associated with this type of activity. The same applies to direct marketing: even though talking to the right people on a one-to-one basis is one of the keys of effective communications today. The same also goes for events, which are often devised by people who have never studied advertising.

My point is the inability of many agencies to include non-advertising languages in campaigns, or adapt to the changed world I mentioned earlier. What does one do in such a scenario? I believe advertising today should be created by an entity comprised of four figures: Art Director, Idea Writer, Attention Planner and Digital Creative Planner. Plus one more, who I'll call the Creative Consumer.

Here they are in brief:

The Art Director: The aesthetic conscience. A good art director today should be capable of, say, supervising the art direction of an event in a town square. The greater the complexity of the affair, the more important it is that the event be overseen by a single figure who ensures that it fits the brand’s vision.

The Idea Writer: Today’s copywriters are not just involved with script and body copy – they must write ideas. In fact they are a blend of writer and inventor. The solution to a client’s problem could literally be anything. But it still begins with a blank page.

The Attention Planner: There are countless channels and places for reaching the target audience: finding the right ones is the attention planner’s job. Media agnostic, they are the kind of person who considers architecture an advertising medium.

The Digital Creative Planner: “Digital” not in terms of technology, but a way of interpreting the world; a viewpoint that places sharing, participation and exchange at the centre. An anticipator of trends, he or she dreams of inventing an app the entire world will download. They generate creative ideas, yet digital informs their thinking.

The Creative Consumer: The product expert. In each brainstorming process, select an expert consumer. Bring them into the agency and have them take part in meetings with the creative foursome. And pay them for the hours they work, just like a creative freelancer.

These figures are still to all intents and purposes creatives (noun, not adjective). The fact that they draw on skills and mentalities generally associated with non-creatives (such as, for example, media, PR or strategic planning) must not fool you.

And don't make the mistake of thinking that this fantastic four only works when the brief features words like digital, unconventional, events, viral, word-of-mouth etc. This dream team would be perfect even for a TV campaign with the average family as the target.

So there you have it. The creative duo is now a one.

Extracted from the book Creative 4Cast (LID Publishing) by Emanuele Nenna, founder of Italian agency Now Available.