Creative Fire @ Forbes CMO Summit

Yesterday I was triangulated between Andrew Essex, the very impressive CEO of the very impressive Droga5; Jenny Rooney, the able editor of Forbes CMO Network; and 100 CMOs from some of the world’s largest companies on a panel at the Forbes CMO Summit. Jenny fired questions at Andrew and me for an hour, and then she let the audience have at us.

We covered the landscape: creative quality, where ideas come from, talent, measurement, procurement, consumer control, media fragmentation … exhale … I confess, I’m exhausted.

gyro ceo+coo Christoph Becker (center) enjoys repartee’ about creativity with attendees at the Forbes CMO Summit, Forbes CMO Network editor Jenny Rooney (L) and Droga5 CEO Andrew Essex (R) Photo Credit: Glen Davis for Forbes 


Just kidding.

We began with the question “Why is so much advertising so bad?” Andrew got it right when he said, “People don’t think ads are cool anymore. They love brands, but not ads.”

I think it is because, with so much digital noise, consumers are bombarded. They are numb. They feel nothing. If they can’t feel it, the ad is worthless. In this post-privacy world in which we live, if we fail to stir intimacy, we fail completely. Andrew thinks we must be creating work that people “like,” which is true, but I still think the test of a great idea is whether it is simple, loud and global. Get those three qualities working together, and they ignite a fire.

I was asked where good ideas come from, and I said, “From everywhere.” I am on a personal campaign to end Creative Apartheid. We must knock down all the silos, separate P&Ls, fences between disciplines and bring all the best minds together to ignite disruptive ideas.

Andrew said it very well when he said, “As for talent, we don’t launch campaigns like battleships anymore.” Great advertising efforts spring forth from multiple talents in multiple places delivering multiple touches.

I think the talent game is all about being a place where creative minds can feel inspired. It’s why we have worked so hard on our UNO culture and “The Why?” of gyro, creating ideas that are humanly relevant. People want to go to work at a place where it excites them to get up in the morning and have the opportunity to have their gifts expressed.

Of course, this CMO audience wanted to talk about agency compensation. My view? A great idea will always be well paid. It has been said, “Success has many parents and failure is an orphan.” Andrew asked, “How can you measure ‘brand love’?” I agree. As for me and most creative people, we can be paid well in affirmation and loyalty. (But please don’t tell this to my board of directors.)

Much discussion was had around media fragmentation. I proposed that, for many years, we in industry have simply pushed executions into touchpoints rather than share touchable ideas. The more we can ignite those customer touchpoints, today, the more powerful and raging will be the digital brushfires we light.

I am very grateful to my friend, Jenny Rooney. Such an interrogation, kind and respectful though it was, was very helpful to me in newly shaping my own thinking on these important issues. Jenny asked how it was that creative people today can even come up with ideas, bombarded as they are by so much communication and messaging. I said, “A good creative never stops creating. Never. Obsession is the fortress that protects a great creative mind from bombardment.”

Even as I fielded these many difficult questions, I formed some new ideas. I can’t wait to do something humanly relevant with them.


by Christoph Becker
Chief Executive + Chief Creative Officer

Cross posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network