'Creativity does not end at the idea’s inception' - creative mentors on campaign delivery

The deadline for applying to be a mentee in the Creative Mentoring Project - backed by PRWeek - has been extended until Friday 3 December. Today we ask the mentors their views on creative development versus delivery.

'The bigger the project, the more involved I stay' (Image credit: John Cumming via Getty Images)
'The bigger the project, the more involved I stay' (Image credit: John Cumming via Getty Images)

Click here for information on the mentoring scheme, including how to apply.

How removed should creatives be from campaigns once they move to the 'delivery' stage? Should they stay involved by, for example, writing press releases or overseeing asset creation? And how do they stay on top of the changing media landscape?

Mentors offer their views, below.

Lee Sanders, creative lead, Frank

I think that this is actually one of the most important parts of the roles that we have. While formulating and generating ideas and campaigns is key, our job doesn't end there – you need to integrate yourself with the wider teams to assist and support all parts of the delivery, but not take complete control of the delivery of projects. This approach means you can ensure that the idea lands as it should and looks as great as possible.

Although with that said, there is a balance to be had; an overbearing and controlling creative is never enjoyable to work with. You're not Don Draper and this isn't Mad Men – they do moan about you in the pub. This is where the two other key parts of our roles come in: to inspire and lead. Letting other people run and own elements of campaigns is fundamental to the growth of the team around you–- support them on it and bring as many people up with you as you can, as they're the people who do the sell-ins, they know the media landscape and they're the people who deal with the clients on a day-to-day basis; good people to have on your team I'd say.

Kim Allain, creative lead, MSL UK

It’s so important to stay close to your campaigns throughout, but it's also doubly important to have a team with a creative culture at the heart, which has been immersed in the campaign creation from the beginning.

This makes sure that the creative nuances and integrity from the strategy and the core of the creative can come alive within the campaign, flowing through all assets and moments such as influencer briefings, seeding and press releases and not just at key moments such as photoshoots and big stunts. Different parts of the campaign have different purposes and speak to different consumers at different times – and the closer all of these elements are to the core creative, the more effective it is.

Ellie Tuck, creative director, FleishmanHillard

If you’re paying for dedicated creative resources, you should be spending your talent’s time wisely. At FH our creative team is mainly involved in 'concepting' big ideas. However, once those ideas have been bought, we also want to ensure the creatives that go into the world stay true to what was pitched and land the client’s brief, so there is a level of involvement, particularly on the production of visuals.

[On staying on top of the change media landscape] Read, read some more, keep reading. We all (hopefully) came into the industry because of our love of editorial; that shouldn’t stop just because we’re not picking up the phone to journalists anymore.

Nick Woods, partner, Sunny Side Up

I think of each campaign as being like a boat: they come in different sizes and go on different journeys. Some are big ships, requiring a separate captain and navigator as well as many hands to launch, sail over long distances or across choppy waters; others are much more contained in both design and journey. Some require specialist builders, navigators and captains but nearly all benefit from having at least some of the builders on the journey too.

Gavin Lewis, managing partner, One Green Bean

Creativity does not end at the idea’s inception. We have a duty of care to the idea, the campaign, the team and the client.

The delivery of a campaign – beyond a PowerPoint slide – is where the magic really happens. The crafting and cheerleading, the protecting and building, the selling in – that’s the most exciting and nourishing part of the job.

[On staying on top of the media landscape] The best way to understand the media is to sell in your story. Follow journalists on Twitter, forensically look at where campaigns are landing and stay curious. That way you are maximising the chances of your work landing.

Henry Warrington, partner, Third City

While my input into campaigns certainly lessens once we shift from development into delivery, it’s never truly finished until the job is done and the objectives are met. Delivery at Third City is like a creative kitchen; the team are all working on their separate components, which get tested as we go along to ensure they still work, before giving it the final check at the pass.

This is vital, as the campaign as written on the page (where anything is possible) is often a very different beast to how it ends up once reality gets in the way. The creative must adapt, but in doing so we have to ensure the idea doesn’t die by a thousand cuts and what’s deliverable will still meet the objectives, fits with the media agenda and excites us. If not, we’ll scrap it and go again.

Pam Scobbie, CCO and managing partner, John Doe

I still stay close to the creative process but try not to get involved in the day-to-day, so that I bring value at the right times. We have regular creative check-ins and the team always comes to them with strong ideas and loads of energy, which I help them to build on. Everyone within the agency is encouraged to do this – not just our specialist teams. Ultimately, we have account teams who project manage campaigns and get coverage for them, but our creative strategy team keeps consulting with them and clients until it actually goes live.

Sam Corry, associate director, Taylor Herring

Personally, I stay very close to campaign delivery. I like to be in the trenches with the team executing it; drafting scripts, directing shoots, sitting in the edit and writing releases are very much still part of my day job. I enjoy making stuff, tinkering with it and shaping the creative.

The media landscape has changed immeasurably over the past 18 months. Fewer media titles and fewer journalists to talk to are a challenge for everyone working in PR. Thus, building integrated campaigns is more important than ever to ensure you have multiple assets and news angles that work across a broad range of media and platforms.

Stuart Yeardsley, executive creative director, 3 Monkeys Zeno

Staying close to an idea is imperative, especially in the craft of the creative expression of it. Equally, it’s not locking out others from contributing to the development. Being across the news agenda and dealing with clients, media and influencers every day is a source of invaluable insight, intelligence and inspiration that pure-play creatives, moved from brief to brief, don't always have.

We shouldn’t ever be dismissive of ‘news sense’ as a quality, compared to ‘creativity’. But someone using their experience to judge whether something is a story or not is a sophisticated assessment of an idea’s originality, cultural and audience relevance, and authenticity and credibility.

And being able to take an idea, look at it from an external perspective, and distill it into a 20-second pitch for the world’s most sceptical audience is an excellent creative grounding. Where creativity meets reality is where PR plays out and is the proving ground for many ideas. Agencies do the best work where creatives act as champions, catalysts and coaches for contributions from elsewhere.

Tom Rouse, director of creative & strategy, Don't Cry Wolf

I think everyone will say this varies based on the ambition and complexity of the project – the bigger the project the more involved I stay. Even on smaller projects, I'll normally review the press release and supporting media assets as a minimum. On bigger campaigns, I'll give the team as much help as necessary to make the campaign a reality. This is particularly true on design and video – I'll work with our internal designer or partner agencies on concepts, do a bit of the copy and design myself, talk to suppliers, wrangle clients, the works.

I stay on top of the media landscape in two main ways:

1) By asking the students I teach and mentor at London College of Comms where they get their news, and

2) By keeping an eye on the links shared on my various group WhatsApp chats and on Twitter to see where my friends and family are finding and sharing news.

Emily Gosen, senior creative, Ketchum

Change is constant. And while there is of course huge importance in keeping up with the evolution of the media landscape, the answer to staying relevant in the industry can actually be much simpler: ensuring that all ideas are strongly rooted in culture and bursting with human insight and truths.

Because it doesn’t matter if it’s earned, owned, digital or social; if we step outside of our bubbles and start immersing ourselves in the real world, that’s when we can start to generate rich culture-first ideas that cut through and make a genuine difference. (Which, ultimately is a creative’s dream, right?)

Andy Garner, creative director, Grayling

Personally, I like to stay as close as I can to a campaign and ensure that the idea presented is the idea that is delivered. As John Hegarty said, 80 per cent is idea, 80 per cent is execution. I totally and utterly buy that. That doesn’t mean that you don’t bring others along on the journey. It’s so important to spread knowledge and experience through your teams and encourage them to ask questions at every moment: 'Why are you putting that light there?’... ‘What is the role of a gaffer?’... ‘What if we tweaked the script to say…?' – that is how you learn and grow. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it can only build a creative.

I stay as close to the media landscape by doing what I’ve done since starting out in PR: consuming media! You have to sponge up everything you can. Be a PR hunter-gatherer to find new trends, new ideas, new opportunities.

Peter Mountstevens, managing partner and chief creative officer, Taylor Herring

At Taylor Herring, the creative team works very closely with the account teams on execution – scripting and attending shoots, art directing and even penning press release headlines when required. The creative remit often requires the team to go over and above the line of duty; our creative director recently recorded and sang the soundtrack for a Xmas ad we have created; prior to this, Sam Corry (now an associate) dressed up as one half of Daft Punk to gatecrash the Brit Awards and so on!

Indy Selvarajah, executive creative director, Ketchum London

At Ketchum London, creatives stay really close to every part of the process, from the brief with strategy and planning through to executing and producing – obviously working with our amazing teams, internally and externally throughout.

Our recent Adobe campaign with Little Simz is a perfect example of how when working closely with our account teams we get to the best results, even through to having a creative lens to the press release.

[On staying on top of the changing media landscape] Literally, be a sponge. Keep ears and eyes open all the time.

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