2019 Predictions from Nick Law, Chief Creative Officer | Publicis Groupe

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Nick Law, Chief Creative Officer, Publicis Groupe | President, Publicis Communications

This year, the biggest shift in my approach to creativity is starting with the agency model that makes the right work possible. We need to create new things so we need new capabilities.

If agencies don’t learn how to incubate and stand-up new capabilities, their share of client’s budgets will continue to shrink. A reactionary service approach, encouraged by fawning account leads, has led to agencies outsourcing their model to clients. As an example, no serious thought has gone into reconsidering the atomic creative team since Bernbach paired copywriters with art directors in the late 50’s.

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Clients typecast their agencies, who then shape themselves to fit these preconceived ideas. But it’s not the client’s job to design their agencies for the future. When they realize they need new kinds of work, they’ll get a new agency. It’s up to agencies to make strategic decisions about their capabilities, and the teams inside them, that anticipate what their clients will need tomorrow and in 2 years’ time.

Growth will come from a suite of connected capabilities that mirror client opportunities and the media behavior of actual people— not the fatuous insistence that a “big idea” can still solve everything. This ruinous myth has given creatives an excuse to avoid mastering the myriad of new mediums that have multiplied in the last 20 years. No amount of anthem-films and fridge-magnet-taglines can mask this neglect.

It’s time to stop defending our glorious past before it’s too late. We need to learn from the music industry; the canary-in-the-media-coalmine. As music fans moved away from CDs to digital files, music companies defended their model of physical distribution, and the industry shrunk by a third. It was rebuilt by new companies on a new foundation of streaming. Clearly the internet is the foundation that the advertising industry needs to be rebuilt on.

This shift requires the creative community to be more excited about the future than the past – to make stuff that is connected intelligently to the modern world, and is designed to be watched and interacted with on mobile (the best version of the internet).

Apologists for the old model complain that all of this undermines creativity. Somehow, they’re blind to the fact that they’ve already mastered technology in a format that was once spurned. Broadcast completely disrupted our industry. Curiously, when it emerged it was seen as blunt medium in comparison to the more mature formats of print and radio. But a 30 second grammar was developed that took advantage of the technology and helped the creative revolution blossom.

If we’re too precious about old crafts to embrace new technology, the new version of our industry will be devoid of creativity. It’s the creatives responsibility to get their hands on new technology and infuse it with magic.

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