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Four Tips To Save The Strategist-Creative Relationship

Words by Andreas Krasser, Chief Strategy Officer, DDB Group Hong Kong

WARC’s 2017 Future of Strategy report identified the “sometimes fraught relationship” between planner and creative as one of the major challenges in building a successful strategy team.

I began to wonder. How about Asia? Is there a similar friction between strategists and creatives as there appears to be in the West? So I conducted a little survey with 103 strategists and creatives from all across Asia.


I started by digging up dirt on the respondents’ previous relationships. 48% of planners thought their past relationships were ‘very good’ and 6% even saw them as ‘excellent’. When it came to the creatives on the other hand, only 32% defined their previous partnerships with planners as ‘very good’ and 5% described them as ‘excellent’. 

So, strategists had a somewhat rosier perspective of their relationship than their creative counterparts. 

To make things worse, some planners described the creatives they worked with in the past as ‘defensive’, and ‘challenging’. Similarly, some creatives thought of their previous strategic counterparts as ‘theory-led’, and ‘tactical’.

Luckily, both sides however agreed that strategists and creatives do need each other.

When it came to casting the future, this mutual need became even more obvious with planners and creatives finally agreeing on something: Strategy & Creative is the new Art & Copy!

The survey revealed a few more themes and insights, which I have packaged up in four final tips to salvage the crucial relationship between strategists and creatives.

1| Create a common agenda

If planners and creatives work towards different objectives, how can there not be a divide in their relationship. So, if you’re an agency leader and want these two not only to get along but also to produce the best output for clients and the agency alike, give them a set of shared goals. You could even go as far as making creatives responsible for effectiveness, and strategists for creativity or distinctiveness.

2| Mix things up a bit

I personally believe that creativity is a lot about making connections between different types of information one has accumulated over time, and then creating something new out of them. Now, when you bring two or more people together that have different types of knowledge and different reference frames in general, the potential for new thoughts and ideas increases exponentially. So, maybe simply start with a new seating plan. Put your planners next to the creatives. And then, just see what happens.

3| Learn each other’s craft (not just the Juniors)

I think the best way to increase mutual respect is through cross-disciplinary training. Train strategists in creativity and creatives in strategy. After all, they say that the best creatives are also good strategists and vice versa. If done right, we’ll eventually end up with Renaissance Creatives & Renaissance Strategists – creative strategists, strategic creatives, data crunching story-tellers, and newspaper-reading social media wizards. Basically, practitioners who are many things at the same time, refusing to be held back by job descriptions.

What might prove a little more difficult however, is to reproduce this with more senior people. I believe though that even senior management could use a bit of cross-disciplinarily training. After all, you’re never too old to learn something new…or change your mind for that matter.

4| Don’t take yourself too seriously (it’s only advertising)

Now before you start writing angry comments, hear me out on this one. Yes, we do more than advertising. Yes, creativity has the power to make a positive impact on society. But sometimes I feel we forget one of the most basic things about our jobs…fun.

And once we have fun again, we should all get along just fine.

Do you have any other ideas for improving the relationship between creatives and strategists? Let me know in the comments section below.


Author Bio:

Half Korean, half Austrian, and a new breed of planner. Andreas is a post-digital strategist, combining brand and communications fundamentals with a deep understanding of digital technology. 

These skills, turbocharged with a passion for cultural anthropology, have led him to win prestigious awards at Cannes Lions, the EFFIES and the AMEs. In 2013, Campaign Asia-Pacific named Andreas Planner of the Year for North Asia, and in 2017, he received the Strategic/Brand Planner of the Year title for Greater China. The same year, he was also listed among Creativepool’s Global Top 100 Influencers.

Andreas is a published author in the field of cross-cultural consumer research, and frequently writes for industry publications such as ClickZ, Marketing Magazine, Campaign Brief Asia, Campaign Asia, and the WARC Blog. 

He is fluent in German, English, Korean, and claims to know how to get himself into trouble in Russian. 

In his free time, Andreas likes to illustrate comics, snowboard, and continuously find new ways to keep his little daughter entertained.

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