A lot has changed since we started the study four years ago, and a lot is still the same. More resources are being devoted to creativity, with plenty of businesses not just talking about it but training staff and paying attention to developing a create culture. Creative leadership is on top team agendas and creative confidence is high.
But there are still key areas lacking rigour (like evaluating ideas) and HR is seemingly not really connected to driving creative practices. Measures around rewarding creativity and talent, interview practices and promotion opportunities are actually down on previous years.
In terms of the work – tapping into culture and social good are two key trends that are going to continue. How to use creativity to make something that matters beyond profit is continuing to gain traction – what Unilever’s Keith Weed calls “connecting purchase with purpose”. Many of the people doing the best work are taking this heart (and taking awards home to boot).
The current Christmas campaigns for John Lewis, Pret a Manger and Sainsbury’s show that brands can make a real contribution to improving lives, whilst working to enhance their own reputations and delivering profit. Dove’s work shows that it doesn’t always have to be about the brand saving the world, just making it better. When I first started in PR twenty years ago these would have been CSR campaigns that ran alongside the brand activity, now they are the brand activity.
The agencies doing brilliantly well creatively well right now have their own purpose and reason for existence and clients respond to that. In ad-land it’s the rockstar-creatives at Droga 5 who say they’re ‘creatively-led and humanity obsessed’ and closer to home Unity PR have won 43 industry awards in 2015 alone. They say they exist ‘to increase human happiness’. What do you exist for? I think this will be an increasingly relevant question – if nothing else one you have to answer if you want to hire or target millennials, who care about this alongside getting a salary.
In terms of practice and processes there seems to be a divide opening up between those agencies who genuinely are fostering creativity and those who want to, or say they do, but still need to get the basic processes right. Crappy group brainstorms and lack of strategic thinking and planning are still going on in a lot of businesses (big and small).
I’m interested in exploring whether women are being represented as part of the rise of the creative director in PR agencies, and whilst we touched on this subject in the study this year it’s a topic we’ll be getting stuck into in the next few months.
Claire Bridges is founder of creative training consultancy Now Go Create, and a co-author of our annual Creativity In PR study.