By Loyiso Twala – (@loyisothevictor)
One of the most celebrated creative minds in advertising today is unarguably Tony Granger, the global chief creative officer at Young and Rubicam (Y&R). He is quoted to have said, “Think of evolving media. Our business has evolved ever since it was invented.” As the industry evolves, the role of the advertiser finds new meaning. This evolution poses a challenging question to the advertiser, which is, “How do you continue to add value?”
Today, the art director is typically expected to develop a concept, design a layout, set typography and brief external suppliers for specialised work such as rendering, editing, styling or photography. These expectations have matured somewhat from the days of Benjamin Franklin’s 1729 newspaper publication called Pennsylvania Gazette, where pages known as “new advertisements” were filled with some of the first print insertions. Essentially, the expectations of an art director come from the time when magazines and advertising became commercially dependent on one another. The art director was there to beautify the visual element of the content.
Ever since the inception of advertising, technology has continued to challenge the role of the art director. In today’s environment, concepts for print execution are not completely gone, but they are less of a focal point. The economic constraints of marketers and the growth of online media options have made the value of a big idea more important. The valuable art director is the one with the ability to develop engaging, wholly integrated concepts for specialists to support and execute.
The art or science of using various media in a way that they all work together to amplify the experience of the consumer, in an engaging form that not only speaks to but also encourages a mutual conversation, is the goal. The one-sided conversation of traditional advertising is quickly disappearing into advertising history and the art directors cannot be seen as ‘tools men’ as they are ‘idea people’. Media cannot be seen as a canvas or a platform, but rather as a formal roundtable or informal hangout. It’s a shift from information to conversation.
This is the basis upon which I punt the career path of an idea engineer. From the growth of online access, social media networks, non-paper based devices and consumer intelligence of advertising tactics, brands are under pressure to be innovative in their approach when connecting with consumers. Art directors as custodians of this interaction where brand meets consumer cannot afford to be layout- and typography-bound but rather, idea-bound. And this idea must live as a holistic experience through traditional and non-traditional media as a well-engineered solution. The demand is greater and so is the reward. The near future calls on such an approach. Such advertising builds relationships with brands and customers and not the short-term ‘respond now, forget me later’ syndrome of some advertising. The relationship makes for a far greater return on the client’s investment.
Advertising is a global industry and the growth patterns are more aggressive in some countries than in others, but it doesn’t make the need for idea engineering any less pertinent for the individual, since the most sought-after award ceremonies are competed against on a global scale.
My profile reads, “I am an idea engineer. I visualise ideas, sell dreams, mould aspirations, define conquests, drive passions, and heighten awareness so as to enrich lives.” Some may still call us art directors. In fact, my own business card reads, ‘art director’. But I must say, I see the idea engineer as a far more relevant individual in this industry. The Art Directors Club may dislike me for my inconvenient insinuations, considering the likelihood of a name change but these are the makings of our industry – evolution.
It’s time we shed off old skin with all its old ways and learn some new tricks – fast. Our brands and dear marketing clients need us to. It’s the value they will ultimately be paying us for.
By Loyiso Twala – (@loyisothevictor)