Monday 28 May 2018

Think:Long event wrap

On Friday, AWARD and The Communications Council hosted our first creative summit, Think:Long – Short Talks on Creative Longevity, in partnership with Facebook.

The event, held at Carriageworks in Sydney, set out to explore key questions surrounding the long-game, whether it’s building brand and trust over time, the ‘long career’, or the future of pricing in advertising.

AWARD Chair, Mike Spirkovski, kicked off the summit by welcoming the audience, introducing our superstar lineup of speakers, before raising a few thought starters of his own.

“What is it that brands constantly feel the need to move around and pitch out their business? Only to say the same thing a little differently,” Spirkovski said.

Adding: “What about careers?…Do you step out, be brave and do something no one has ever done? Or use a reliable formula and safe approach and just get by doing “good” your entire career but miss an opportunity to change the creative landscape?”

Jonathan Kneebone from The Glue Society addressed the ‘long career’ by connecting the dots between creativity and individuality. During his talk, “It takes time to become you”, Kneebone said that the hardest question to answer as a junior is ‘who are you?’ and ‘what type of creative work do you want to do?’.

He argued that, over time, creatives are defined by their work, and this ultimately leads to recognition for that work.

Next up was Terry Savage, who was invited to speak at the summit only a month prior to his final year as Executive Chairman of Cannes Lions, an association lasting 33 years.

According to Savage, agencies and clients must get better at building trust and a real partnership. He said that the most common feedback he receives from marketers and brands is that the “agency doesn’t understand their business” and that “there are too many layers”. On the flip side, the most common feedback from agencies is that clients “want everything for nothing”. Savage argued that a partnership based on trust can solve these problems.

One of the world’s leading experts on pricing services and value creation, Ron Baker from the VeraSage Institute challenged the pricing model currently used by agencies and criticised the ‘timesheet’.

“My quest in life….bury the timesheet and billable hour,” he said. Adding: “We can’t use time to measure the worth of talent and creative and innovation. It’s the wrong measuring stick, yet we are so committed to this.” Baker urged agencies to stop pricing for scope of work and start pricing for the customer.

All the way from balmy Portland, Susan Hoffman of Wieden+Kennedy stressed that there’s no such thing as ‘brave’ in creativity. In her talk, ‘Bravery is Stupidity”, the keynote speaker argued that creativity is about solving problems in new and surprising ways.

According to Hoffman, an advertising legend who began her career working on the Nike account as W+K’s eighth employee in 1985, the rapidly changing marketing world presents both challenges and opportunities for creatives.

“As things move faster than ever, yet budgets are smaller than ever, we need guts, we need to shock ourselves, we need to do work that inspires, and ultimately we need to fail harder.”

Moving on to the panel session, moderator and Humdinger Sydney founder Al Crawford questioned the speakers on the challenges facing creative leaders today.

Joining the all-star cast, Naomi Shepherd from Facebook and Instagram said audiences are “primed” for new technologies and digital experiences, yet industry should not lose sight of the “big idea”.

“All these new formats and shiny toys are ultimately there to let the big idea exist. They are not the idea themselves. They are simply the vehicle to bring the big idea to life,” she said.

When asked if the creative and advertising industry is too hard on itself, Shepherd responded: “From an outsider’s perspective, creative agencies have this culture that is so rich, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. There’s such kudos that surrounds it from someone who sits well and truly outside creative agencies. I think it’s something to be enormously proud of, and it’s definitely something that companies like Facebook, and Google, and Instagram and others are really drawn to, and something that we want to heavily invest in. And be a big, big part of. Just be a little bit easier on yourself.”

Terry Savage agreed and said “agencies shouldn’t be down on themselves”. Adding “We have got to get far more positive, and have far more leadership about what we’re fantastic about”.

In response to criticism of agency process, Savage said that there needs to be balance between immediacy and process. Hoffman agreed: “Sometimes there are too many people in the room”. She said that agencies must “learn to work faster and “keep the quality up”.

Panel members were asked for their thoughts on the future of the creativity industry, in which Kneebone responded “individual-focused”. Celebrate real individuals and let their voice lead everyone else, Kneebone said. Adding: “The truly creative people can actually transform an organisation and an entire industry; and that can be the quietest person in the room.. I think it’s about time to get excited about individuals again. Let’s get back to individuals being brilliant.”

Hoffman left us with her final remarks concerning gender and diversity in the creative industry. She said “the future of our business is diverse”, and is looking forward to “rebalancing agency” to make this happen.

Think:Long was an initiative of AWARD and The Communications Council, in partnership with Facebook.

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