Creative is Strategy. And Vice Versa.

I once had a client give me the highest compliment of my professional career. Well, at least my career working in strategy. He said, “The reason your work is so good is that there is literally no gap between the strategic insight and the work itself.” Pride and flattery aside, there’s a lot that I like about this comment.

First of all this is why I’m a tyrant about briefs and copy. I’ve had the luxury of being both the writer and strategist on a number of projects, and that intellectual synchronicity has a habit of producing highly on-strategy work. And that’s not because I’m special — rather it’s because the strategy is just a forethought on everything a writer/strategist creates. However, that’s a luxury most brands and agencies don’t have. And that’s precisely why it’s so important to make sure that CDs and strategists are on the same page. As strategists, the work suffers when we veer too far toward the analytical, business part of the equation. We have to remember that we are more creators than processors. We make a thing. And that makes us intrinsically more like a creative than an account or media team.

But ultimately, isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t all the work we create be purely strategic? There’s an implication in this comment that I feel often tossed about in our industry — one that is made manifest on the regular by the creative side of the business. There are a lot of people who believe the purpose of the work is recognition first, objectives second. And there are agencies — really, really good ones that everyone loves and follows — who’s directive to creatives is to do work that gets noticed. Therein lies the rub of our business. Yes, the work should be totally amazeballs. It should make people want to talk about it and think about it for days to come. But it can’t be purely for entertainment value. Likewise, creative work cannot ever be purely a mechanism to deliver RTBs and selling points. No one will ever care about your RTBs as much as you do. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

There’s a follow up soapbox I can preach from regarding the proper place of equity and brand marketing, but I’ll save that for another day. The bottom line is this: strategist are at their maximum value to a brand, a client, and a team when they are caucused with creatives. We are the first line of defense against meaningless creative and the first line of offense against pure sales concepts. We must always be the voice of reason between cynical and dogmatic.