From Guto Monteiro, Executive Creative Director, VMLY&R
Chief operating officers are out of control. In this bustling ad agency landscape, we have so many departments, people in the most different roles, and intricate processes that it feels like we are not solving business problems anymore, but instead super elaborate crimes. Our org charts look like an evidence board with profile pictures followed by arrows pointing in all directions. But more than talking about the messy ecosystem, I want to focus on the impact it has on people – where silos and walls are making individuals more disconnected from each other.
I’m not trying to blame anyone though. We are simply replicating a formula of mass production. An evolution of Henry Ford’s concept that is more than 100 years old. His method meant dividing the production line into sections and making each section responsible for a piece of the car, resulting in a perfect vehicle – and massively increasing the amount of vehicles you can produce.
Of course, this works well for the car industry, but when it comes to the production of ideas, it doesn’t function as smoothly because we deal with a factor that disrupts the whole production line – creativity. While resource managers try to organize the agency’s flow, creativity causes unexpected turns. And even if people were to stay within the boundaries of their department, solving their part of the problem, in the end, we’d have the exact same cars – but we can’t create the exact same ideas.
Besides that, the excessive number of roles imposes limits and avoids crossovers. The more we try to define people’s roles, the less room we have for spontaneous encounters. For an exchange of ideas. For knowledge to roam free. For improvisation, for creativity, for jazz. Because that’s where magic happens in an ad agency – at the intersections. Something Ford was clearly trying to avoid.
INNOVATION HAPPENS AT THE INTERSECTIONS
So, I’m going to propose a new way to organize an agency in 5 simple points. They probably won’t work in the fast-paced market we work in today, (I’m also not taking into consideration the way an agency gets paid, because this is a subject for a whole new article) but maybe they can give us good insights on how to improve the ways we work.
Ditch all the titles.
What if we crossed out all those roles under our names? Replacing all the fancy acronyms that inflate our egos to something that doesn’t try to define ourselves.
Make everyone responsible for the quality of the ideas.
What if we were all responsible for understanding the client’s problems? And what if all of us were on the hook to provide the creative solution? We would still need people with different skill sets, but we would all be responsible for the success or failure of the full project and not only for our own part.
Blur the lines.
Get creatives to do research. Strategy to write copy. Account to produce ideas and producers to write strategy. Technologists to create social content, and community managers to suggest a new interface. Make people more hybrid, and multifaceted. Make them work at the intersections.
Elect a Leader.
We can never be too democratic in an industry as subjective as advertising, so while there are many ways to solve a client’s problem, it’s important to follow one voice. Otherwise, the production line is going to spit out Frankensteins.
Embrace the chaos.
This is not mathematics. Advertising is not an exact science. So, you need the chaos in order to see the light. If we try to control the process, the result will always be predictable – and we are in search of unpredictable ideas.
Even though these points could lead to chaos and business losses, they still provoke us to find more intersections in our daily work. To allow the crossover to happen, to make the team more connected and empowered with different points of view. And sure, the production line drives efficiency and helped build the big ad corporations we know today, but why keep making the Model T over and over again when you can invent a new car every time?