A few days ago we and The Drum invited leaders from a cluster of design and build-focused digital agencies, large and small, to a roundtable meeting in London. And a most enjoyable and informative time it was.
The topic on the table was relevant to everyone there. “How do you strike a balance between creativity and commerce? Everyone wants to work for an agency that is thriving, winning exciting new business and awards and hiring talented fresh faces. But in a world where revenue is largely driven by more mundane accounts, how can agencies strike a balance between commercial need and creative want?”
One topic that surfaced was the need to change the perception of what working for a so called non-thrilling brand is really about. Kent Valentine, director of London digital agency Draw, had a clear vision about it. To him, it’s a question of motivating people to rise to the more difficult challenge and prove themselves.
“One of the challenges is that there are some projects that are seen as really fun and ground-breaking. We work in fashion, and in media, which are seen as being exciting. But we also work in professional services, which might be seen as more ‘vanilla’, with less room to play creatively, and there seem to be more creative constraints there.
“But I think that’s something as an industry that would be helpful to overcome.
“I think one of the challenges is to get the team to be excited by professional services because it has more constraint, so it requires more creativity not less. It’s therefore not something boring. There’s so much value in discovering a new route through it. Because there are more constraints, this is where you need the creativity.
“Where there are projects with less limiting factors, it’s easier for people to shine. So we need to rally people and get them excited around these more difficult situations. I think it’s really a key function of the leadership team.
“If you work in that sector you want people who aren’t robots. If someone wants to work on Nike and you put them on a project for a large law firm, it’s just not going to seem as exciting to them. But it has extra challenges built-in. Can you make that exciting and interesting? I firmly believe you can.”
Does it work? It's interesting to note that this very week his agency Draw is up for an award at The DADIs. The category? Digital work for a client in the professional services sector. Enough said.
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Thanks to Kent Valentine of Draw as well as the rest of the participating panel: Simon Butler, Director, of Purestone, Richard Bruton, Managing Director of Propeller Communications, Natalie Gross, CEO of Amaze, and Ian May, Programme Director, Creative Jar. Their time and insights on agency management were greatly appreciated. We’ll publish other insights from the roundtable in the days to come. Draw is a Synergist user.
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