Good reading this week comes from our 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agency) membership via their 4A’s SmartBrief, news for the advertising, media and marcom industries. Agencies need to break away from the homogenized confines of an office in order to allow creativity to flourish, writes Creative Equals’ Ali Hanan. Flexible working arrangements — or a day shaped by core hours — would give creatives space to think and encourage more women to stay in the industry, she writes. The article appeared on June 20 in the online British publication, The Drum, run by industry experts that “believe marketing can change the world.” We tend to agree. We contacted Ali to ask about the statistic, “88% of all creative is shaped by a homogenized group of creatives (male, white, educated).” She replied, “That is the case in the UK from my research. Only 12% of CDs are women so that means 88% of them are men and that group is very white!” Wondering about how the US stacks up, we found a 2013 Fast Company article stating, “Women control a whopping 80% of consumer spending, yet only 3% of creative directors are female.” A 2014 3 Percent Conference report states, “The percentage of female Creative Directors in the Communication Arts 2013 Advertising Annual reached 11.5%.” Looking beyond all the stats, we were pleased to see in this June 2017 article by Hanan, attention drawn to the “flexibility” issue. Well aware that a willingness to change or compromise regarding work style and working hours to accommodate valuable workers with lives outside of work is an issue for all industries. We are also well aware that inflexible working hours affects men, too.
Could flexible working save creativity? Article by Ali Hanan
At McCann Japan, the company’s new artificially intelligent creative director, AI-CDβ is busy responding to live briefs from clients with logic-based creative direction based on past trends and success of TV ads. Last year, a human advert showing the hand-drawn beauty of giant calligraphy artistry narrowly beat AI-CDβ’s ‘superhuman flying dog’, in a consumer vote, by just 9%. Only with divergent human thinking will creativity defeat the robots.
Currently, creativity is in a workplace straitjacket.
Could our inflexible, outdated working systems be holding us back? Currently we’re in a ‘groupthink’ situation where 88% of all creative is shaped by a homogenised group of creatives (male, white, educated) within a traditional 9-6pm time structure. To creatively outrun artificial intelligence, it’s time to add in fresh, divergent perspectives into the mix, fast. To do that, we have to rewrite the workplace.
Trailblazing ideas rarely come during office hours.
Laura Jordan Bambach, chief creative officer at Mr President and co-founder of SheSays dreams her ideas (she scrawls in a ‘dream diary’ beside her bed, some time in the small hours), while chief executive of J. Walter Thompson, James Whitehead, cites his Saturday run as his most productive thinking time. Ana Balarin, executive creative director at Mother London, uses her breast-feeding time to solve creative problems, while Dentsu Aegis UK and Ireland chief executive Tracy De Groose says conversations with her sons have sparked some of her most creative ideas.
Our notions of time are outdated.
Imagine if our workplaces focused on a six-hour day, instead of our 24/7 model. Or, we worked around ‘core hours’ of 10am-4pm, like a recent workplace initiative from Wieden + Kennedy in London.
It makes sense; a recent study from Sweden showed that a six-hour working day significantly increased productivity. Nurses who worked a six-hour day were happier, healthier and had more energy compared to working eight hours. Additionally, they took less sick days and were less stressed, more active and experienced less back and neck pain.
If creatives could come in and focus on six-hours of ‘core working’ just consider the fresh, divergent approaches that could spark. A recent initiative from AMVBBDO has introduced permanent half-time working roles for parents, which may shape a path back to work for those we currently force to leave in droves: mothers.
Inflexible working hours mean we lose a huge majority of mothers.
While not considered a ‘diversity’ group (like race, LGBTQ, age, ability), the fact is so few mothers shape work within our business. Yet research from Digital Mums shows six out of 10 working mothers don’t have access to flexible work, despite laws introduced in 2014. Almost seven out of 10 stay-at-home mums would go back to work in some capacity if flexible work was an option. Creative Equals research shows an incredible 60% of our young female creatives believe they won’t be able to stay in the industry with a young family.
With open flexible workplaces, there is no doubt we’ll retain our mothers, attract Generation Z and, with multiple points of view at the table, unleash creativity. Just maybe we’ll daydream those unexpected, impossible ideas no algorithm can possibly predict, let alone create.