Bring In The Creatives Before The Consultants

Creatives are more valuable than consultants. WPP CEO Mark Read gives a compelling argument with an example that goes (something like) this: Imagine a city council who wants to attract more people and businesses to a sleepy and aging train stop. They bring in the consultants and the creatives (i.e. marketing people) to pitch ideas. 
The consultants’ pitch includes tax breaks for existing businesses, infrastructure spending for the train stop, and grants to incentive others to come in and take residence. It’s expensive, but it comes with case studies of other places with popular train stops to emulate. The costs come with future projections and ROI calculations. Armed with spreadsheets and tables they make a compellingly logical argument. 
The creatives’ pitch starts with the visual field people on the train see as they pass. They propose a garden on the roof of the platform you’d see as you approached. They note several unused historic spaces to repurpose for local businesses and shops. They have background research on the existing community and how they’d be excited to engage in this project. It’s relatively inexpensive and they give examples of other thriving train stops in communities – not only how they got that way, but how they stay that way. Armed with illustrations and descriptions of the feelings they’d like to curate, they too make a compellingly logical argument.
Consultants can make the numbers work for now. Creatives can work with numbers for how, why, what for, where, who, when, etc. If the goal is to turn the train spot into a local attraction, the creative mindset is to start by thinking about what would make it more attractive, and only back into numbers second. This is the gift the creatives bring – they’ll solve for the humans first, and, once they have a concept, they’ll be ready to work with the consultants to nail down the math. 
As we all approach year-end and face our own deadlines, projections, and plans to enliven certain projects in the new year, we’d be wise to remember the creatives and not just the consultants. Yes, there will be numbers, but instead of just focusing spreadsheet cells we should remember to ask how, why, what for, where, who, when, etc. 
The goals may be things like “get x number of new clients” but the questions we should be asking are “Why would people want to become our clients? Who are they? How do we engage them? What will convert them?” If we creatively understand the question, the consultants’ math will follow to support our answer. 

Creatives first. Consultants second.

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