Shut up and show me the work
"Shut up and show me the work". Seven words that have stayed with me throughout my creative career. They were said (with a smile I should add) by one of my first ECDs, as I tried to lay the groundwork for concepts I was about to present to him. Let the creative work do the talking was his ethos. Because ultimately that's what the audience will see and nothing else matters. Are you going to be there to explain to them your thinking? No. So zip it. My experience of the B2B Marketing industry over the past four years has led me continually to revisit those seven words. The first time I went to the B2B Marketing Awards, with the exception of a plane painted like an animal, I couldn't remember any of the creative work a week later. That could have been how it was presented. Equally it could have been because it was forgettable. That has never happened to me after any advertising awards (D&AD, Cannes, Creative Circle, Kinsale, BTAAs, etc). Usually you would be filled with equal amounts of inspiration, and to be honest, jealousy at the creativity you had seen on show. You could debate which work was better, but at least there was creative worth debating.
The creative work is undoubtedly the weak point in B2B Marketing. There's a huge focus on the data, technology and automation, with creativity always the bridesmaid. Too many B2B campaigns are cheap knock-offs of previous B2C ideas or simply lack a genuine idea altogether. That's the fault of the B2B agency Creative Directors, not the clients. A title married with generic stock shots and graphic design is not an engaging idea. But how many B2B agencies have genuine conceptual creatives, like advertising agencies have? Often it's a content writer handing off work to a graphic designer. And how many B2B agencies have creativity represented in the management team? Too few. Otherwise the work would be better. You couldn't credibly start an advertising agency without a creative partner. So why should B2B Marketing be any different?
Creativity as a philosophy and creativity as a service are two very different things. You can be Agency of the Year in B2B Marketing without any creatively noteworthy campaigns. That's how low the creative bar is set. The truth is that B2B would share the same creative kudos as B2C if the work was better. Because that's what matters. Creativity is proven to increase effectiveness, so why neglect it? With this bee in my bonnet, I was fascinated to watch Robert Senior's keynote at Ignite B2B Marketing last week. Robert is an ad-man like myself, though not on the creative side, and I was looking for a sanity check from someone else who has the same reference points I do. His keynote "Balancing Utility with Magic in B2B marketing' echoes many of the reasons why we founded LogicLogicMagic 18 months ago. Paul Cash & James Trezona, founders of B2B agency Rooster Punk and champions of B2B marketing, have also written a book "Humanizing B2B" that lays out frameworks to help create more engaging work. But where is it? Where is the actual work? Perhaps it's in the pipeline and this November at the B2B Marketing awards we will be treated to an evening of memorable, original creativity. I really hope so. I understand how immensely difficult it is to get great creativity to market in B2B, believe me. My past four years are littered with ideas that were deemed 'too creative' (as if that's a thing) or in danger of ruffling the feathers of the brand team. Heaven forbid. But at LogicLogicMagic we also have many examples of actual B2B creative work, where the stars have aligned to an extent. Where clients trusted in our creativity. Films, direct mail, and experiential activity with ideas that would happily grace the portfolio or reel of most B2C agencies. Having been an ECD at a top B2C agency, I know. Drop me a line, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll be happy to share them with you. Perhaps because of the proliferation of salespeople in B2B marketing there feels like more rhetoric than B2C. But the rhetoric needs to match the reality. I'd like to hear more from the creative leaders in B2B agencies. Keynotes, frameworks and books are great signs of progress, but every once in a while, just shut up and show me the work.