Recently there's been a schism about collaboration among advertising people. One camp (let's call them Followers of the Devine Light of Collaboration) promote collaboration as the *One True Path* to success. The other (The People's Army of Free Thought and Creative Independence) is quick to vilify the "c word" and denounce its usefulness entirely.
While I understand what both sides are saying, I think this is a silly argument to have. In case you've somehow missed this spat here are the opening arguments.
Followers of the Devine Light of Collaboration feel the advances made during the 'Creative Revolution' (pairing an art director with a copywriter) were good but don't go far enough. Every single person inside of every single agency should be seen as creative and those creative souls must work together to create great work. It's hubris to assume so called 'creatives' are the only ones who hold the power to make great work. People need to learn to make less waves and hold-hands with everyone to reach a common goal.
The evidence they offer is the success of Oreo's Super Bowl tweet from 2013 and quotes from industry 'thought leaders'.
The People's Army of Free Thought and Creative Independence believe involving everyone at every step of the process in creative work is idiocy. There are too many people who don't know what they're doing who try to wrangle some control over the work. Collaboration is dangerous, they say, because it waters down the final creative output.
The evidence they offer is the current, piss-poor state of advertising work and quotes from their own thought leaders.
I'm always wary of people who profess they know the one true method of making things. Telling people the exact method that will work for them. "This is the way I create so it must be the way everyone creates" is as intelligent a statement as saying that all third graders are roughly the same because they're small and can't write as well as fourth graders.
Weird, bad example.
Anyway, here's where I fall on the issue. The truth lies, as it always does, somewhere between these two waring factions.
I agree that too much fiddling by forces not directly involved or responsible for the work is dangerous. Just because someone has the ability to give their take on a piece of work does not mean that take is good or constructive. If you want evidence of this just spend some time in the YouTube comments. Everyone, every single person believes that he or she knows best. How could we not? We're the center of our own universes. However, if that same someone does not have to sign their name to a piece of work it gives them the permission to muck it up and walk away.
Collaboration isn't the same thing as meddling. Meddling is taking responsibility for things you know nothing about. It's sticking your nose where it doesn't belong because you're bored or frightened or need to assert power over people. It's like the nice midwesterner who tries to help you with your car that's broken down despite having failed shop class in high school. It might be well intentioned but it's utterly unhelpful.
But I don't think across the board banning of collaboration is intelligent or even possible.
Saying that a creative team cannot be anything different from the two person Art Director/Copywriter or three person Art Director/Copywriter/Technologist set up is also not 100% true. There are myriad ways that creative work can be accomplished. It all comes down to what's right for the assignment at hand or. Not to mention Scamp's recent post about a new age of agency that does everything because having everything unified together means means better work in general.
Expanding to other creative industries can help give perspective on this. If you look at disciplines like writing/creating movies and TV you can see there's not one 'true' way to make something great.
For instance, in the UK most shows are written by a single creator or a couple of creators. Meanwhile in the states a comedy calls for a large writing room and a drama a slightly smaller one. Part of what informs these differences size/scope of the show (two people might kill each other trying to fill a 22 episode sitcom order). Part of this is the creator's preference. Part is Hollywood going along with what's worked in the past.
Movies can also be a solitary act (Paul Thomas Anderson largely writes/directs/edits his movies on his own. Shane Carruth does everything from concept to shooting to music) or a collaborative one (such as the way Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze work with a collective of other creators to improve their work). And even when a movie is done by a solitary creator there's a whole cadre of producers, crew members, and executives involved in some part of the process.
Even authors, probably last bastions of the solitary creator, have editors they work with to improve the work. They get input at the right point in the process and it improves the work.
Bringing it back to advertising, is a creative team not collaborating?
When John Hegarty recently gave his thoughts on creativity he warned against collaboration in the first point, then stressed the importance of a good partner in the last. Curious because if we accept the dictionary definition of collaboration: "the action of working with someone to produce or create something" then every single ad that has happened in history has been the result of collaboration.
So I think it's time people on both sides put down their weapons and realize it's all a matter of how the people involved like to work. And what makes the best work possible.