Creativity is a Means, not an End in Itself


"We're creative" is an outdated positioning statement for advertising agencies.

Only if the agency world were divided into "non-creative agencies" and "creative agencies" would creative agencies have bragging rights and a justification to position themselves as special.

This was the case back in the '50s and '60s, when DDB (Bill Bernbach), Leo Burnett Agency (Leo Burnett) and Ogilvy & Mather (David Ogilvy) led the way into the Creative Revolution. Being "creative" actually worked, and these creative agencies, with their new quirky ads, actually created business success for their clients. As long as they were creatively unique (and this lasted only one decade), they could call themselves "creative," and the term really meant something. But that was then...a long time ago.

Since then, the public has had 50 years of exposure to agency creativity, and there's nothing unique about the concept. Creativity is the norm. As a result, it's become meaningless as a term. Creativity is a means to an end, not an end in itself.   

What clients want and need in an era of "shareholder value" and astronomical executive salaries (based on rising share prices) is reliable growth and profitability.  Results, in other words.  Management consultants have seized the day in this area and have dedicated their practices to helping clients improve profitability.  Incidentally, these consultants are paid a 5-6x multiple on salaries (in contrast to the usual agency multiple of 2.3x).

Why can't agencies jump on the "results" bandwagen?  Sure, it's not easy to design a Scope of Work that generates reliable results, but is anybody trying?

Single-minded dedication to working in a focused way to improve client results through intelligent media choices, thoughtful Scopes of Work and efficient execution might create a new breakthrough in advertising -- a Results Revolution to replace the Creative Revolution.