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The role of creative director in the new age of advertising | Anish Varghese, NCD, Isobar India

13 Mar 2019

Whenever I assemble my team for weekly update meetings, my creative team tell me they are concerned about selling in big ideas. They worry about the ideas that they aren’t launching, and what their portfolio looks like. Many creatives freely admit that ‘you’re only as good as your last piece of work’ – it’s something my team shares too.

What could be the reason?

I pondered on this and dug deeper to address the worry. So, I challenged myself to put our creative anxiety to the test and decided to shadow my team and client along with the creative process – from kick-off meeting to D-Day.

While restlessness is part of being creative, our anxiety is being driven in both the medium and tools of our job, but also the role of the creative itself has evolved.

I discovered that there was an essential business challenge behind every creative brief. How will we close the sales loop? How will we disrupt the purchase funnel? Previously, it was the responsibility of the sales teams to answer those larger questions, with the brand teams focussing on the core message. Today, these business questions are being asked to the marketing team, who have realised the opportunity that working with good creative can bring a solution.

While narratives and ideas continue to be fundamental to creative thinking, marketing briefs are challenging creatives to close the deal and arrive at solutions that change how consumers behave, and what they believe about a brand.

With Digital as the nucleus, creatives are increasingly asked to create ideas that are designed for an ecosystem. Tactical campaigns will not solve the brand’s challenges. That said, creative ideas are still important – they provide the thinking that makes brand experience valuable and have meaning for consumers. It includes bringing them closer to the purchase funnel.

What is a solution-based creative idea?

Ideas influence how people feel. Solutions move people to act. An engagement idea is the sweet spot – it invites an audience to interact with a business, and increasingly this takes place in the virtual world. Using a ‘participatory’ approach, where the audience is no longer an observer of the brand but becomes part of the brand story. This enables the business to show its customers what it offers, but also what it stands for, it’s needs and the role it can play in the consumer’s life.

This connects me to the thinking around the importance of technology in building creative and memorable brand experiences. Embracing where the audience is and making them the brand experience is critical. Creative directors are increasingly reliant on user behaviour data because our ideas need to work within the context of the entire user journey, but also to arrive at a transaction.

The new way of approaching creative is to imagine that we’re taking our audience on a rollercoaster. There’s a start and an end and in between we build various touch points – entertainment – stories that guide people to interact with our brand.

Today, the creative director is building an amusement park. Building actionable ideas, where solutions and stories become one big experience.

So, this analogy should ease that creative anxiety: ideas are still fundamental, but digital and consumer expectations are changing the role they play. And it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Anish Varghese is national creative director at Isobar India

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