I hate the word ‘creative’
Carrying on from my rant yesterday, I now want to be a bit more controversial. I’d like to challenge the very idea of creative departments. Because maybe the word ‘creative’ is a legacy title that’s lost it’s meaning and could even be holding back the industry.
My first problem with the word ‘creative’ is that it’s elitist. By calling a department ‘creative’ it sends a message that other departments aren’t. In the same way as referring to someone as ‘the girl with the massive rack’ would infer that the people she’s with aren’t blessed in quite the same way. And many ‘creatives’ have fallen for this elitism. They only see value in ideas that come from within the department. But I believe that the future of the industry needs a far more collaborative attitude with creative thinking across the whole business. So this elitism is potentially preventing bigger ideas and fresher thinking.
Another unfortunate truth is that the majority of people who are given the title ‘creative’ just aren’t. As Dave Trott says – they’re stylists. And the Creative Department should really be called the Art and Copy Department. Some of the most creative people I’ve come across in the industry haven’t worked in the creative department. They’ve been techies, planners, account people and even clients.
Having the title ‘creative’ does not make you creative. A truly creative person is someone who’s so passionate about creating stuff that they just can’t stop doing it. They’re constantly looking for things to put their mind to. And the ones that I’ve found most inspirational over the years have amazing creative things happening outside the office. That was the case at Poke – Nik Roope had his amazing Hulger products and ran the Webby awards in the UK, Simon Waterfall had his Social Suicide fashion label, Iain Tait had a hugely successful blog and I had plenty of my own stuff going on. Creative people just have to be creative. You have to get it out. If you don’t, it drives you crazy.
When I’ve been looking at restructuring departments in agencies, there is an issue where lots of people want the word ‘creative’ in their title. I think they think it’s glamorous. Even when in reality many of them spend their days chained to their Mac wrestling with Adobe products in the same way as people in the finance department spend their days chained to their PC wrestling with Excel. What’s creative about that? I would rather people were more interested in being creative than calling themselves creative.
The role of the Creative Department has changed over the years as well. When I started out in the industry there was very little planning. The creatives dealt directly with the account handlers and therefore had far more strategic input. These days that magical, fascinating part of the process has been taken away and turned into just that – a process. Audiences are tightly defined and messages are thoroughly researched. That in itself isn’t a bad thing. But the way it’s implemented often muffles creativity rather than acts as an inspirational springboard.
The long and short of it is that the role of the Creative has changed. And maybe to spark more creative work we need to let go of the ‘creative’ word. It’s far more powerful as an adjective than a noun.
What do you think?