Jaffe thinks the creative function should fade away?

“Why don’t you all just fade away.” – Rex Manning, Empire Records

 I couldn’t help but think of this quote from my favorite movie when I finished reading Joseph Jaffe’s latest blog post on “Is it time to phase out the creative function“.  In one of the more provocative posts I have read in a long time, Jaffe basically calls the creative function out and argues that their time has passed them by.  Jaffe argues that in today’s world, “creativity is just way too imporant to be left to a single person, a dynamic duo, or a department anymore.”  He goes to state what I think is the most important part of his argument:

“I’d begin by losing the word ‘creative’ from any job title and thus, any walking silo.  Every–and I stress every–single person involved in the process of engaging surprising, delighting, empowering and converting consumers has to be creative.  Any less will just result in failure.”

Last week I wrote about how there is a difference between being a Brand Manager and being a Marketer.  This is one of the points that Jaffe was getting to.  In the old world, you could just be a Brand Manager and rely on your creatives to come up with brilliant marketing campaigns.   But in order to be the best Brand Managers in the future, you will need to be a brilliant Marketer as well.  You need to embrace that breakthrough ideas could come from anywhere…the consumer, the agency and even the client.  You cannot just sit comfortably in the background with the thinking that the ad campaign you approved will be the solution to everything.

Now to be clear, Jaffe isn’t arguing that creatives should fade away, but instead the creative function as currently defined should.  If anything, I think Jaffe is helping make the case that agencies should be closer to the business so we can all be creatives for the business.  One of the things I am enjoying most about my current assignment is the relationship I have with my agency team.  In Cincinnati, a brand team will sometimes end up with a dozen different agencies (traditional TV/Print, media, interactive, design, PR, etc).  Down here in Fayetteville though I get to work with one agency and as a result, I have brought that agency as close to the work as possible.  In fact, my boss jokes that my account supervisor should just have a desk at our office since he is here so often.  I think that is the point.  In the new world of Brand Marketing, everyone should have a seat at a table to find the “answer.”  My agency partner actually summed it up best when I sent this article to him for his thoughts.  He wrote:

I think Jaffe’s point on creating silos is very much a direct and indirect product of the older creative department – input direction into the black box of creative and out comes the answer.  Creativity has and is evolving.  It is not positional or territorial or departmental.  It is an approach.  A willingness and ability to see things differently.  To question.  To pursue multiple angles to find the best answer.  It is outdated to have this represented as a function in a company. – Jared Meisel

The stakes are incredibly high for both brands and agencies to find the answer to this.    The new world of marketing requires partnership at an incredibly high level.  This type of partnership will require the breaking down of my brand/agency norms, including the approach to creative.  Anyone now willing to embrace this fact might just end up fading away.


4 Responses to Jaffe thinks the creative function should fade away?

  1. Jessica Kelly says:

    alas, the biggest problem with all of this presented here is that mr. jaffe has never created an actual advertisement of any sort in his life so he knows little if nothing about the creative process of creating ad capaigns. reading or saying or telling is not doing. he has not done.

    ok, so he wrote a couple of books about ideas related to the industry, but this blather is all a bunch of hullabaloo.

    give the man credit since he did manage to plug his agency in the ad age article so i’ll award him a few extra points for that. however, it makes one wonder if he conceived this article around that and then figured out a way to make some bold inane though attention-getting proclamation about the state of creativity in the ad industry.

    can someone also please help to decipher his marbles in mouth writing style. just what in the hell does the following sentence mean? “…gravitate closer to the transformation of strategy into actionable solutions and/or represent a specific specialization…” doesn’t ad age have any editors on staff?

    speaking of creative titles, a title is just that, nothing more than a title. it really matters what you do with it. at the very least his article managed to interrupt things a bit. chief interrupter indeed.

  2. Dave Knox says:

    Jessica – So how do you define “creating an actual advertisement”? Didnt he create the ad for Nike with Tiger Woods (http://www.jaffejuice.com/2005/04/tiger_did_it_ak.html)? Sure it was Consumer Generated and Nike didnt hire him for it…but it was watched by thousands of consumers.

    And I’ve never met Jaffe but from his bio, I know he was Director of Interactive Media at TBWA/Chiat/Day. I’m sure he was involved with the traditional creative process while employed there.

    I welcome and encourage debate on this blog but I prefer if you attack the idea instead of attacking the person.

  3. paul isakson says:

    Dave –

    Excellent post.

    I flagged this article to write about as well and haven’t had an opportunity to do so yet.

    This subject is on the minds of many around the agency world. (Well, at least those who are wanting to evolve with the times.) Jaffe is pretty dead-on with how they’re approaching it. Goodby has made no secret of how they’re creating hybrid teams. You can bet that the top digital agencies are doing this as well.

    Having spent the first part of my career in traditional agencies with traditional structures, then moving to a top promotions agency that used a non-traditional approach to creating ideas and now working at a digital agency with a very non-traditional approach, I can attest to the ideas getting bigger and better when you mix in smart people from different areas of expertise.

    The people that don’t embrace this approach will soon be left to being the production teams/execution arms on the ideas that the ones who do use it come up with (if they’re lucky). Odds are though that their agencies will fade away from ignoring the changes taking shape at the agencies who are “getting it.” Just read some of the Tweets coming out of adtech today from the panel on modern agencies.


    Very glad to hear that you’re treating your agency like a true partner. That’s important to getting the best ideas brought forward. A collaborative approach all around, including getting closer to the people using your products/services/etc., is required to being a great modern marketer.

    Thanks again for sharing your thinking here. It’s good to read things from “the other side” of the agency / client relationship and even more so when we’re tracking along the same lines. Ha!

  4. Dave Knox says:

    Hey Paul….thanks for commenting. It seems like there are many believers on the agency side (especially with digital and other non-traditional ones) that this change has to happen. But I’m still sensing a bit of sluggishness with brands feeling the same way. You are talking about shaking up relationships that are in some cases decades old and an agency holding structure that was created to meet the needs of those brands. It will be very interesting to watch and hopefully influence the change over the next couple of years

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