How do you define creativity? Is it the process of painting beautiful pictures and making music that inspires you? Is it the process of consuming and interpreting content, creations and collaborations in the world around us? Perhaps it’s gathering great thinkers and enabling them to do great things.
In this episode of The CMO Show, Anne Miles shares insights about what it means to be creative – and what happens when it collides with marketing.
With a wealth of experience across several creative streams, today Anne is the managing director at International Creative Services, an independent consulting services firm that assists with creative services in the advertising and marketing industries.
“When it comes to commercial creativity, I think (creativity) is being the coolest way to solve a client’s problem and get people to engage with the brand.”
Tune in as JV and Mark dive into why marketers should care as much about creativity as they do about data and numbers, explore what businesses can do practically to keep their jobs on track and how to best deliver to your business and brand strategy.
- M&C Saatchi’s Game of Balls
- Bonds’ The Boys
- How M&C Saatchi’s Innovation Prize Shows Agencies How To Be Just More Than Agencies
- Strategic production: 5 imperatives to close the gap between strategy and execution in marketing and communications
The CMO Show production team
Audio Engineer – Jonny McNee
Design Manager – Daniel Marr
Graphic Designer – Mitchell Marr
Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanne-Vida Douglas (JVD)
Mark Jones (MJ)
Anne Miles (AM)
JVD: So Mark, are you creative?
JVD: Really? How?
MJ: Absolutely. You know… How am I not? I have got this, you know, I’ve got actually like a fundamental belief in us as people, humans, that every day the things that we do are fundamentally creative.
JVD: So what do you do that’s creative?
MJ: I write. I coordinate groups of people to come together and think things and, you know, from a team engagement perspective. I engage with clients. We work on business strategy. You know, all of these things are creating ideas and structures and systems and, you know, programs or campaigns, or whatever, you know, might be that didn’t exist before.
JVD: So if it’s fundamentally human to be creative, then how come we make difference between creative people and non-creative people?
MJ: Yeah, right. Maybe it’s billing. you know, just here’s our smart creative people and here’s doing people. Like I don’t know, is it an invoicing thing? I don’t know. There’s an interesting kind of dichotomy that we have seen emerge in marketing where it’s like, yeah, the creative people, the doers, or the account managers, or whatever but they’re not creative. But I would say even within that, you know, the concept of managing an account, there is creativity involved in terms of the way you do what you do. So it’s a really interesting question.
And it’s something that we’re going to address today with Anne Miles. She’s the managing director at International Creative Services and she’s spent a lot of time figuring out the difference between the creativity associated with sort of project management and getting stuff together and making stuff work within an organisation. And what you traditionally think of creativity, which, I mean we don’t mean to be disparaging when we say pretty pictures, but it is about making things beautiful, yeah?
Yeah. So it’ll be interesting to hear how she, you know, charts a course between creativity and you feel like execution and then this concept of innovation and disruptive ideas and maybe the way she can, you know, give us a sense of where it’s all going.
JVD: Okay, well let’s hear from her.
MJ: Joining us is Anne Miles, managing director at International Creative Services. Thank you for joining us, Anne.
AM: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.
JVD: So what’s fascinating about that notion of creativity and this is actually what we’ve been talking about this afternoon. Is that when we think of creativity and creative people and creatives and advertising, we often think about the people that do the pretty pictures, yeah?
JVD: We think about artists and we think about something that goes into, or someone that goes into a quiet room and comes out with something spectacular. But thinking about your career and that capacity to move sideways through different types of roles and thinking also about what creativity is within an organisation, it’s a very different, it’s a very different idea to the sort of pretty picture creativity that we have in our heads. I mean you’ve been creative about your own, your own career progress.
AM: I think in the old days, some of the advertising agency land was a bit about pretty pictures and getting the award reel done and, you know, the folio piece and all of that. I think that’s a really pet hate of mine. How many times I’ve seen producers and creatives really pushing a client’s brand in a certain direction just because they think it’s the coolest, latest technique.
MJ: Yeah, “If we do this, we’ll get an award.”
AM: That’s exactly right. I think that’s a new trend, I think we need to get to where the creative is much more accountable. And even when we’re doing marketing tracking, you know, the metrics on how the work is performing, mostly people just do a general kind of track of sales versus marketing activity in terms of media channels. But what they’re not doing is overlaying which creative is working and which is not. So I think that accountability around the actual creative work is really important for me.
MJ: So the question then becomes, in all of that: what is creativity?
AM: Yeah, that’s a great question.
I think artists probably argue that it’s more about the experience, how it makes you feel, and those sorts of things, but I think there’s a lot of us that really appreciate the idea in it and how it makes you think. But when it comes to, you know, commercial creativity, I think it’s being the coolest way to solve a client’s problem and get people to engage with the brand.
JVD: So is part of the challenge that we’re in a creative industry and we have very creative people who are creative in the traditional sense, great storytelling sense. So we tend to perhaps devalue what is in fact innovation. Like where does…
JVD: …creativity end and innovation begin?
AM: I just was just reading an article by Dr Amantha Imber. And she was talking about how in our industry innovation is actually super important. I think total reinvention is too much of a culture shock in advertising, because advertising is at the crisp edge of reflecting what society is and wants; and also having an opportunity to influence. But I think you can only do that in innovation space, not reinvention.
MJ: Now, I feel like at this point we probably should attach that to a case study, can you give us an example that illustrates creativity versus innovation versus reinvention?
AM: For sure and it means something to everyone different. And this is probably not the most savoury one, but it’s like two minutes ago, I just read about it and I did think it was a really good angle. But M&C Saatchi is a big advertising agency in Sydney and they were working on a campaign for testicular cancer and to try and get blokes to self-inspect, and so how do you get to guys, you know, to do this? So I think what was beautiful about this campaign is it was quite actually quite innovative. And I’m not sure if you’re aware of the campaign but it was basically within a porn movie. [Laughter] The actor stops and gave a demonstration during the whole thing of how to self-inspect. And I thought that is absolutely brilliant. It was really innovating because it was within an environment that they were already used to, but no one’s ever done it before in that way. It was very big news and I think that was really, like clever mix of creativity and innovation.
MJ: So are you saying that it was embedded advertising in a porn movie? Is that what you’re saying?
AM: It was an experience… Yes, so if you imagine the scene.
MJ: I don’t want to… carry on, yeah.
AM: So there was a… [Laughter] No, there’s a scene of a woman with the guy and she then stops and turns to the camera and says, “I… This is how you, you know, check yourself, guys” so potentially there were people who were in that position who could inspect themselves then and there as well… super clever.
MJ: Now I’m wondering whether I really should have asked for an example.
AM: [Laughter] Yeah, I know.
MJ: Just laughing here in the studio. But just in that example, you’re saying it’s innovation because it’s not necessarily been done before that is in the way that they… oh, anyway.
AM: There was media placement and it was content. It was a whole bunch of innovation.
MJ: But isn’t that just creativity? I mean what was the innovation bit without…
AM: Yeah, well it…
MJ …don’t go into too much detail, please.
AM: No, no. I think that… Yeah, that’s a good point. Because it was actually awarded for a prize for best social innovation. So I guess the judges would have certain criteria around it. And I am not actually sure how they…
AM: …considered it
MJ: Yeah, yeah, because…
JVD: I’m sure, I’m sure there’s been condom campaigns associated with porn in the past. Like I’m – I’m… [Laughter] Not that I’ve seen… [Laughter]
AM: Yeah, and that probably, product placement.
JVD: This is not working!
MJ: Yeah. Wasn’t it a friend of yours that told you about it JV?
JVD: [Laughter] No, but it’s the natural place for it. I’m sure that I’ve heard about it.
AM: Oh, yeah, I think it’s just that this is just one more step beyond what’s expected clever, if you know what I mean. So that’s where it’s creative, is yes, it’s creative media placement to have condom product placement within a porno. Oh yeah, that – you’d go that’s clever and that’s quite creative, but to actually to push it that the on…
JVD: I guess there’s an extra element of experiential marketing.
MJ: As it were. Why did you… [laughs] And so, and maybe part of the disruption is that it’s also an interruption?
AM: Yeah. Yeah. Some of it is. Yeah, it’s just an interruption to your thought process and expectations. But this product experience within a context you didn’t expect, that’s disruption to…
JVD: This public health message, shall we…
AM: Public… that’s it, thank you. [laughs]
MJ: Thank you, JV, for bringing us back to the…
AM: We need a better way to say it!
MJ: …straight and narrow.
MJ: You have a very interesting background in both marketing, advertising, creativity, and I understand psychology as well…
MJ: Tell us how did it all came together?
AM: I know, it’s a funny journey actually and it probably has come out of some adversity too, a little bit. So I think I was really lucky. I worked in big advertising agencies over the years. When I was very young, I was made head of TV at McCann Erickson, which was a really big multinational agency. And at 21, I was managing $20 million worth of broadcast production which is…
JVD: At 21? How did that happen?
AM: I know. What were they thinking?
MJ: What do you know at 21? Nothing. You don’t know anything.
AM: I know and it was, yeah, sink or swim sort of stuff. And…
MJ: Well done.
AM: So… Yeah, thanks. It was madness on their part, but somehow I survived. But I think what happened for me is I jumped into a big job very quickly, so I needed to find stimulation. What I did is diversified. So I went sideways. And so I went from, typically, in production, most people tend to stay in an agency or they stay in a film company or they stay in visual effects or they stay in a post-production. I skipped around a little bit then I got bored with that.
And then I thought well I need to do something else, so I trained as a business coach, did some marketing, and as you said psychology, elements of psychology, positive psychology particularly and neuro-linguistic programming. And over the years, I just went, “Someone should do something different in our industry”, because there’s a big gap and big problems. So I suppose out of that’s where I’ve come to, is you know, created my own business now, which has been super fun.
JVD: Is part of the problem that we’ve seen certain roles as creative and other roles as non-creative, previously? Because – and I’m going to totally misquote him here, but you’ll get the vibe. The management speaker, Gary Hamill, talks about the fact that everybody is creative; it’s just whether or not their role enables them to bring that creativity to work.
JVD: And a lot of the roles we create for people and have them sort of doing fairly mundane tasks while they’re at work in really non-creative ways and then going home and dedicating all their creativity to hobbies on the weekend. And I’m wondering whether or not when you’re looking at creativity as part of processes, we’re really looking at redefining roles that we traditionally thought of as non-creative as now being creative.
AM: I so love that you’re asking me these questions. Because that whole thing about defining roles, I’ve written a white paper on this actually; it’s about a thing I’m calling strategic production. So I feel there’s an opportunity for the role of project managers in creative businesses to be redefined for this very reason, because I feel there’s a direct link between strategy and the ultimate creative execution.
So what my challenge is, to the industry, is that there’s opportunities in every touch-point along the job, where the strategy can be maintained or lost. And there’s no real consistency in the current process, perhaps an account manager at best, but they’re not really experts in some of the interpretation of you know, all the process and organisational things that turns into a creative product at the end.
So if you thought about that person adding those skills in then I think you’ve got the perfect formula.
MJ: Wow, sounds a bit like a unicorn person, doesn’t it?
MJ: That’d be awesome, more people like that.
AM: I’m only learning it because I’ve like learned those things for myself and I’ve gone, oh my god, if I had all this back then, imagine what I could’ve done.
AM: You know, and lost opportunities, really, yeah.
MJ: So if you look ahead in imagining how you see the marketing industry more broadly evolving, how do you think we will place a monetary value on creativity? How do you price that?
AM: Yeah. And there’s a lot of different businesses sort of competing to, you know, find a happy place for that at the moment. And a lot of the ad agencies are really struggling at the moment because they feel that the good ideas are being commoditised and just down to head hours. And I tend to agree with that; at the same time, you know, you look at other industries and you know, there’s great innovation and engineering techniques or whatever and they don’t have you know, a big complex sort of you know, pricing structure around that. That’s just, yeah, it’s part of their job, kind of thing.
So I think that’s about where all this metrics and measuring comes in. That you can actually work out how the creative is actually attributing to the result.
JVD: Well, you have laid down the gauntlet for senior marketers: find some unicorns and you’ll be fine.
MJ: Yeah, pretty much. [Laughter]
AM: Who can do the community service announcements in really creative ways.
JVD: Excellent. We’re going to transition over to one of our favourite sections of the show, which is a rapid fire 21 questions.
AM: Oh I think I’ve heard them before, so I’m going to wing it a little bit.
JVD: What are you grateful for?
AM: I’m grateful for the tiniest things actually… like even the sunshine.
MJ: Do you like rain?
AM: I am a dairy farmer’s daughter and I was taught that rain is money, so I love it.
JVD: In the movie of your life, who would play you?
AM: I think it’d be Robin Wright, who is in House of Cards. Now I’m not saying I want to be the House of Cards character, but I actually think Robin Wright is really intelligent, smart; she’s sexy, she’s really versatile, and I like her a lot.
MJ: What’s your greatest career fail?
AM: Yeah. There’s probably been a few, but I think leaving to avoid bullies and other people’s discrimination. I think that if I’d have only, you know, worked out a way through that, I think there would, you know, there might have been a different world ahead.
JVD: Beach or mountain?
AM: I just really need greenery, so I think it has to be mountain.
MJ: Best ever career advice?
AM: Demonstrate your value with numbers.
JVD: Summer or winter?
MJ: Who is your hero?
AM: Yeah, last week, I probably would have answered differently and gone, “I don’t really have one,” but I noticed the other day that JK Rowling has come from nothing to this amazing empire and you know, making people feel good all around; and also like sacrificed her billionaire status by donating masses of cash to charity, so I really love that.
JVD: If you weren’t a marketer, you’d be a… ?
AM: Landscape gardener.
MJ: Chocolate or strawberry?
JVD: What did you have for breakfast?
AM: A tub of yogurt standing up next to the fridge.
MJ: And what would you have rather had?
AM: About eight rashers of bacon.
MJ: Yes! Bacon is always the answer.
JVD: What was the last conversation you had with your parents?
AM: “Sorry, we’re not going to make it. The kids have got gastro.” Not good.
MJ: Not good. Scrunch or fold?
AM: Well, I think I’m a bit of a hybrid. I’m a scrunch with one fold on the top.
MJ: Wow. Nice.
AM: There you go. Creative. Innovation.
JVD: If you could change one thing about the marketing industry, what would it be?
AM: Yeah I struggle with this. I feel like there is a bit of lack of integrity in quite a lot of the industry, a lot of discrimination and a few negative things I’m not so cool about, so I guess I’m trying to shake that a bit.
MJ: Can you ride a bike?
JVD: What’s your greatest career frustration?
AM: I – yeah, it’s a bit of a topic for me at the moment in social media and whatever about gender bias in our industry. So I think it is a frustration generally that I think the good people are not being recognised. And so I’m really making a bit of a stand about that at the moment.
MJ: Touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell: which would you sacrifice to save the rest?
AM: Taste, because I’m a bit of a fussy eater and I’d love to be able to eat anything without anyone noticing.
JVD: Dogs or cats?
MJ: Favourite book?
AM: Yeah, I read buckets of books and I’ve just thrown out so – like everything I owned to clean out, but I think it’s my address book, is the most precious.
MJ: Didn’t see that coming. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?
AM: It would be Nina. It has to be something with two syllables for a start.
AM: Yeah, Coco, that’s good. Yeah.
MJ: Very nice. Thank you so much for joining us, Anne Miles is managing director at International Creative Services, our guest this time on the CMO show. It’s been great to have you with us.
JVD: Yeah, thank you so much for your insights.
AM: My pleasure. Thanks so much.
I think I figured it out, Mark.
MJ: What’s that?
JVD: It’s about problem-solving.
MJ: Ooh, that’s interesting. Why?
JVD: Well, because all of the different types of creativity, whether it’s creating something beautiful and engaging, whether it’s creating a solution to a problem, whether it’s creating a solution to a maths problem that we’ve always had, or building a new type of bridge, it’s all about creating a solution. And if that solution hasn’t happened before, then it involves creativity or if it has happened before and we’re finding a new way to use it, then that’s what’s fundamentally creative about it. It’s about the problems we need to solve.
MJ: What’s interesting to think about is where it’s all going and if you think about large organisations, how does this work at scale? So how do teams operate in a creative world? How do we make sure the creative thinking and processes are sort of baked into the work that you do? I think one of the more important aspects of this is deciding you want to continue to foster a creative culture and one that drives innovation and disruption to the status quo. We’re not just looking for run rate marketing stuff here. You know, we’ve got to keep constantly questioning and pushing the boundaries because that’s where the value lies.
JVD: Creating new solutions.
MJ: Yeah. There you go.
JVD: Thanks so much for listening.
MJ: We’ll see you next time. Thanks for joining us on the CMO show.