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M Booth Says “Welcome To The Age Of Small Ideas”

Chief Creative Officer A.G. Bevilaqua and SVP Digital Matt Hantz on how their in-house creative team “MADE” grew from small thinking.

Though it may not sound sexy, we have entered the age of the small idea. Once upon a time creatives would toil toward their 15 or 30 seconds of fame. Living and dying for the break-out TV spot. But that was when TV ruled. Creativity is no longer measured by the big moment or the big launch. There is no longer one holy grail for creativity or one stage that we all strive to inhabit.

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Today the creative trinity of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is table stakes. Technology has exploded and now every new platform and every platform within a platform inspires thought, ideation, and a creative presence. Virtual reality has given rise to more immersive media, letting us design more transformative experiences for consumers. From chatbots to Echo and Google Home, artificial intelligence and the desire for a more “human” touch in technology have us delivering more native interfaces on behalf of our brands. The IoT provides endless opportunities for us to think about how frictionless systems can help transform technology from a disruptor to an enhancer in our lives. The variety of these platforms provide the most fertile creative canvases we have ever seen in the history of marketing.

The beauty in the proliferation of this innovation is that there are more opportunities for ideas to live than ever before. No one person can keep tabs on all of the creative opportunities or control every creative stream. To create brilliantly and effectively in these new places it takes an intimate understanding of the platforms, and this truth gives rise to a new creative pluralism–a need for more creative minds and voices to conquer and create in this ever-growing landscape. Here context and technical expertise reign along with being “in” on the nuance of platforms and the technology they use.

This new operating system deflates the traditional patriarchy of creative departments where a relatively small homogenous group of creative directors, historically male-dominated, drive the ideas that are created, bought and sold. We overheard at Cannes this year that creative leadership is still 90% male in our industry. We predict that this number will rapidly decline as the new landscape requires creative leadership and structures that are more agile, democratic and flexible.

At M Booth, we have built the creative team MADE around this new operating system. One of the team leads is Tiago Veiga. A veteran of co:collective, mcgarrybowen and JWT, Tiago believes, “The one-directional nature of CD-to-maker, concept-to-creation fails because it ignores the inputs of so many brains that are gathering information about a brand every day and have the opportunity to create for a brand everyday.” There are many ad agencies that still fall into the traditional Madison Avenue rut, where a small group of high-ranking Creative Directors are making nearly all the decisions and the people making things are used in the execution phase only. But we believe there is a more satisfying way to create in the future, based on a few simple philosophies.

  • Building a creative culture is more important than building a creative department. Hierarchy and homogeneity limit the ability of any group of people to put their best foot forward, particularly in the world of marketing. A culture of creativity focuses less on hierarchy and approvals and more on evoking and rewarding an entrepreneurial spirit that enables ideas to come forward naturally and democratically. It creates many seats at the table and acknowledges ideas from creatives at all levels. Designers, tinkerers and makers are looking for places where they can be . . . wait for it . . . creative. They don’t want to wait for senior titles to make decisions or share their vision. We find the new generation of creatives work best collaboratively. They naturally form a cloud, not a pyramid.
  • The best ideas are not an extension of a singular ego, and scapegoats should be driven into extinction. There’s an old proverb that states, “success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.” That’s about half true. Success does have many fathers (and mothers), but failure is also shared. The most successful ideas are a result of collective genius. They are crafted democratically, through socialization and then released into the world for social consumption. If you want an idea to be shared and embraced by many, you stack the cards in its favor by letting many vote on its merit. This anti-Don Draper approach means that creative direction today is more about provoking and empowering many creative brains and then getting out of the way. Conversely, responsibility for moments of malfunction, regardless of their size, fall on the collective, not the individual.
  • Diversity of creative talent is the future. Our world demands diversity, now more than ever. Homogenous creative leadership just can’t produce the variety of work required to resonate in an increasingly diverse world that is using divergent channels to create and share meaning. And better yet, clients and brands are demanding it. Creating meaningfully for the diversity of platforms that exist today takes a wide range of thought and experience. It’s simply not a one woman or one man show.

Big campaigns still requires an enormous amount of preparation, much research (quant and qual), and a great deal of involvement from the most senior of creative execs. But if you’re a twenty-something creative in a large marketing organization or agency, the chance to stand in on a shoot for a Super Bowl spot and serve as a creative cog executing the vision of a Creative Director is probably not as exciting or personal as the chance to create a brand’s point of view through SnapChat Spectacles.

Business today requires relentless creativity. The era of small ideas means the creative landscape has grown exponentially. There are more chances for experimentation. There are are more opportunities for more people. There is a sense of creative entrepreneurialism. Perhaps the greatest innovation to come from all the innovations of our time is a new found creative pluralism where there are more fish in the sea and less Moby Dicks.