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July 8, 2010
Guppies F*cking and the New Hybrid
 

The debate in my recent Hyper Island Master Class (digital training for creative professionals) was one of craft versus utility in the modern creative department. The creative generalist versus the digital specialist. Call them by other names, but you know what I’m talking about. Most agencies agree bringing these two groups together is critical. Doing it, however, challenges many of them.

 

I’m generalizing, but bear with me. There is a latent tendency for generalists (art directors and copywriters) to obsess about craft (typography, body copy, design, etc) far more than the various species of digital creative. Conversely, the latter group tends to be more about the usefulness of the creative. Utility trumps aesthetic. Does your creation help the end user? If not, who cares what it looks like? Online, you’re just creating “digital ghost towns,” said digital creative consultant (and one of our instructors), Daniele Fiandaca.

 

Of course, both are very important. Duh. Yet there is much to be gleaned by extrapolating key pieces from this discussion (if debate is too strong a word). Pick any side. Both parties have much to say. Either way, it should be apparent that getting both sides aligned is in the best interests of agency, client, and consumer.

 

Let’s stick with the agency, shall we? I work for the day when of all my colleagues are hybrids, with digital folks thinking high concept and their creative counterparts respecting utility.

 

The metaphor I like for this hybrid creative department is guppies f---ing. Aquarists know that within a short period of time you can’t tell which guppy came from which parent. They are a strain of all. Likewise, we in Adland will no longer be able to tell who came from a general background or the digital side, and we won’t need or want to.

 

“Useful,” stated Saatchi creative director and class presenter, Tim Leake “will be the new cool.”

 

The new, most desirable creative people will be keen on delivering concepts that are both useful to users and beautiful to behold. They will be adept at all of it and evaluated accordingly, as will planners, producers, and account executives, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

“This new hybrid, however, requires a new way of thinking altogether when it comes to the hiring or placement process,” said advertising student, Isaac Viel.

Hailing from Oregon, Viel is a reader of my blog. He appreciates the hybrid concept but cautions our industry: “This is what we want to bring to it: A new agency model that is based on collaboration as a vector, not assembly through a chain of command.”

 

I couldn’t agree more. Hiring practices will need to be modified considerably in order to bring in the appropriate well-rounded creative person as opposed to a specific type, i.e. copywriter, art director, or the so-called digital specialist. In turn, we will need to modify our evaluative processes as well. A collaborative structure implies that ideas have many authors, not just one or two. Just as the creative hybrid will have many skills, he or she will require a new title and position. Our organizational charts will have to change. Hierarchies in the department will no longer be as straightforward, nor should they be.

 

However, one thing never changes, nor should it: the idea. Whether one still calls it the “unique selling proposition” or an “organizing concept,” or as we do at Euro RSCG, the “creative business idea.” It’s still the big idea that matters most. Whichever platform a creative prefers to work in, he or she will need -- as always -- to be an exceptional conceptualist. This is not to say that role players will not be useful anymore; of course they will. I’m just suggesting that the new leaders of hybrid creative departments will still be the one’s who can create and/or recognize big ideas: their own and someone else’s. Even in a guppy tank the best genes carry the most influence. The strongest, most beautiful fish are the ones who thrive.


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Chairman of Euro RSCG Worldwide Chicago, Steffan Postaer is responsible for its overall creative leadership and quality of the creative product. He’s received several prestigious awards, including a Kelly Award, Best of Show, Gold and Silver awards at the One Show, the Addys and a Cannes Gold Lion. Steffan has a novel about god and advertising and posts regularly on his blog, Gods of Advertising. Follow him on Twitter.

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