In case you haven’t noticed, things have changed a lot in the advertising and marketing industry. With bigger bandwidth and faster, smaller, cheaper digital devices, the world is staggeringly more connected. With home-grown, artisanal wine, cheese, whiskey . . . pants . . . the world is a lot more “local” as well.  And, of course, all of the choices you make – whether it’s the restaurant where you just ate, the starlet you just Googled or the selfie you just posted to Instagram – are obsessively observed, analyzed, and sold to by advertisers and marketers.

So we got to wondering, what does it mean to be a creative in today’s world? How many “legs” does an idea have to have when advertisers and marketers are targeting various demographics, each using multiple media devices and social media platforms? And does having all that data mean you or anyone else knows how to use it?

We posed these questions to Chief Creative Officers at some of the world’s leading ad agencies and will be posting their responses here over the next few weeks. Together, they should give us an interesting take on the state of advertising creative today.



I sat down with Steve Simpson the Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy & Mather North America to discuss the state of the creative today.

In this new era of data and technology, what has been the fundamental change for creative?

Creatives now have the remarkable ability to learn from their work after it appears. We are never launched, we are never done and dusted, and we operate in a continual state of launch. We all get second (and more) chances to do it better.

What does it mean to be a creative today?

The days of the copywriter doing the copy part and the art director doing the art part now seem quaint, childlike, and pathetically touching. A creative today takes on many more diverse responsibilities and possesses and uses many more talents. But these talents, although expanding all the time, are finite. We need to rely on experts, and part of our success is being good “expert locators” to do for us what we can’t do ourselves anymore.

How important is it for a creative to understand data?

We are all becoming more fluent in data – all of us, in both agencies and client companies – but I am sure our current proficiency will seem stumbling and bumbling two or three years from now.  I am not confident that nearly enough clients and agencies are doing much more than “sounding out” the syllables of the data, and I’m convinced we overestimate our interpretive abilities. We think we’re reading Proust, but we’re really reading Berlitz French.

Is it harder to be a creative in this world today?

It’s much more interesting to be a creative now than it has been. There are now so many ways and places to solve problems that the possibilities are either exhilarating or intimidating, depending perhaps on your temper and perhaps on your talent.  The things that are harder are outside the core: agencies do ever more work for ever less pay and command less and less professional respect from their clients – perhaps there’s data that will tell us there’s a connection.

In the market today, what does it mean to be the best, and what does it take?

Same as it ever was: an idea that sticks like a burr.

]What is the coolest object in your office?

Eight-foot blackboards on which we pin every idea in progress in every stage of finish (or dishevelment). It’s a cure for being overly precious about an idea (there are more where that came from), it helps you draw connections you might otherwise miss, and, speaking for myself, it helps me know what I think.