Creative misdirection - header for The Greenhouse blog post about creative agencies and creative directors in South Africa

As brand managers, media buyers, and strategic planners continue to carve up the marketing budget, is the creative director becoming nothing more than signature? Who is the creative custodian of a brand’s marketing communication?

As brand communication options become more diverse, more skills are needed to ensure the messages reach the consumer. New platforms mean new knowledge and a new understanding of different landscapes. This brings with it opportunity for collaboration between agencies and experts previously separated from the creative process. It also means that new specialist agencies are being formed, concentrating on one area of expertise and skill. Media planning agencies, for example, have recently grown as a separate entity and are competing against traditional agencies for a piece of the marketing pie.

There’s nothing wrong with this in theory, competition is good and healthy. However these disciplines shouldn’t be in competition with each other, they should be working together and feeding each other. The same is true for social media specialists, mobile developers and SEO agencies. All of these skills are being offered to marketing directors as additional costs that need to come out of the marketing budget, and they are all completely necessary. The problem arises from the fact that not all these skills are offered by experts in consolidated brand communication, and more importantly, as the marketing diversifies so the passion for the brand becomes diluted.

The agencies founded on these new skill sets need to make themselves competitive and add value to their offering in order to gain attention. To do this they are including the strategic and creative conceptualisation in their service, when this is clearly beyond their scope of expertise. As the creative skillset is difficult to quantify the bean counters are happy to take advantage of this value added offering.

New platforms mean new knowledge and a new understanding of different landscapes.

Christopher Commerford

So we see a decline in consolidated creative messaging and expert conceptual thinking. A sad lack of creative brand custodianship. The creative director in any brand communication should be the final check to ensure that work is creatively brilliant, effective and on brief. Once the client starts deciding they know better on how to check these boxes then the work loses credibility, not because clients are incapable but because it’s not their skill set.

Accountability is key in an industry where reputations are currency, and this doesn’t mean the reputation of the individual or the agency, it’s the reputation of the brand that is valuable. That brand reputation is protected by a creative director, and unfortunately that voice is being drowned out.