Shaun Northrop

Blurred lines: The future of advertising.

Terug Blurred lines: The future of advertising.


Sounds cryptic, it’s supposed to be, I’m creative. But recently I have challenged myself to look at what we do as an agency. What we are really good at, why we do it well and what are the things that make it work so well. The flipside of this is that I also looked at what we are bad at and what goes wrong and why. But that’s for another blog, it’s a big topic.

After looking at everything we do from successful account pitches, to happy clients and simply projects that we really enjoyed there seemed to be a pattern. And when there’s a pattern there is often a way to replicate it. So that’s what I set out to do. Here’s the big surprise:

When we blur the lines between roles interesting things happen. When account people get creative, when creative people get strategic, when managers become producers and when everyone feels they have a place in the project. That’s when work takes on a new, more interesting dimension. When we feel comfortable enough to allow the lines to blur – the creative product gets more – well, creative!

Now, that might sound strange coming from a creative guy, after all – WE are the magicians, the rock stars, the crazy ones who make this Madman world go round. But, the world has changed. The departmental thinking of times passed is well and truly over and consigned to the vault. There is a more fluid, natural flow to the process now and that’s exciting. It’s interesting to let creative develop media strategies, or account people to sit in creative sessions. It’s no longer them and us, it’s simply us.

The end-to-end consumer experience demands more than a cool TV slot that I can brag about to my buddies in advertising. The prize has changed, brands are looking for ideas that change and effect culture, not just standout for a week or two. And that kind of cultural creative happens faster and resonates more when we allow the lines to blur.

Granted, at some point people who know what they are doing need to step in and take control. Heaven forbid creative get involved with financing on a project! The skillsets within any agency are clearly defined and (mostly) work very well.

We worked recently with a wonderful client who actively embraces this ‘blurred lines’ thinking. Each year we have a series of workshops that set out the following years marketing objectives. It’s a mixed group from senior management, product design, media agency, trend watchers, account people, marketeers and of course – creative.

Everyone brings something to the party. Everyone has a chance to share insights and new thinking. Everyone can comment on ideas and products. It’s liberating. Because we leave the job titles outside the room and blur the lines we give ourselves permission to get things wrong, to ask naive questions. At the end of each session we conclude with homework. Where each person leaves the workshop with a task to research, develop or refine. As the workshops continue the ideas we generate crystalize into sharp, coherent marketing plans. The lines may be blurred but the direction is single-minded and focused. The result? A solid marketing plan and fuel for the coming year for everything from product design, marketing ideas, activation plans and of course – a solid creative idea or two.

Blurring the lines helps to involve the team by giving them the opportunity to make a difference, to make the project their own and more importantly to make the project more enjoyable. So don’t be afraid to blur the lines in your department, you might just surprise yourself!


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