The Art & Science of Creativity

The Return to Scrappy

COVID has forced every business to embrace scrappy alternative approaches to every day work and flex their creative muscles. What did we learn from this, and how will it inform the future of Creative?

At the beginning of every success story is a scrappy beginning. Starting in the garage, tinkering after hours, and borrowing everything from library logins to access credentials, the “startup” phase isn’t pretty. But it’s also where the magic happens. There’s a reason organizational management praises agility and disruption in business, and why fostering true scrappiness in established environments seems akin to bottling lightning.

But there’s nothing like a global pandemic to force disruption and transformation from top to bottom, and smart teams are leveraging this as a galvanizing moment to reset and humble teams. It’s one thing to sing the praises of scrappy approaches, but it’s another to identify what makes the magic happen, and create systems to foster it long term. Here’s three things we’ve learned from our teams and our clients about where they’ve seen creativity flourish beyond the traditional confines of how and where we operate:

1 ) Process Does Not Equal Creativity

What happens when you tear up the playbook? You unlock the potential of teams that combine experience and talent, and get a whole look and feel that makes you stop and listen.

The work at Conde Nast is a great example. While the brand has enjoyed the growth of video over the last couple of years, the content was well planned, shot and edited before publishing online. At home life forced a rethink, but also created a huge opportunity, particularly for Bon Appetit. On our May 28 episode of Back to the FutureConde’s Chief Business Officer Jen Mormile walked us through the outcome: by putting the personalities readers know and love live, in front of the camera, the brand is seeing 10x the engagement vs pre-shot content.

Why is this? You’re seeing the creative process in action, and it makes viewers feel like their part of it in a truthful way. “Our live time together is content too.. It’s the human connection that we’re all craving right now” Jae Goodman, CEO of Observatory, reminds us.

2 ) Embrace the Medium

With the “rules” out the window, creatives can take a fresh new approach to thinking about what works where. The innovative and offbeat pairings that have emerged have a unique ability to delight, catching consumers off guard and displaying unexpected joy and true creativity on platforms which had become far too predictable.

But the trick for making these land is acknowledging the power of the platform. The DNC Roll Call is an excellent example, combining live and recorded snippets to create a 30 minute montage of vote-casting. The individual vignettes offered an opportunity for something new — a personalized view of each state, it watched like a speed round of State Fairs, with proud delegates hawking their view of a Democrat-led America.

DNC Roll Call takes advantage of delegates
reporting from home

Politics aside, the montage made a splash because it didn’t try to recreate the real thing- it embraced what it was and leveraged the opportunity for individuality and virality to make a splash. The Calamari Comeback State may come out of 2020 as one of the clear winners.

3 ) Everyone has a Role

The move online has democratized the creation process. Talia Bender-Small, President of the Female Quotient noted during the Stagwell Transformation Summit that this is the ultimate “share the mic moment,” with lowered barriers to entry for the “messy middle” management who might not be the first ones called on for input. With physical location out of the equation and Zoom Room capacity high, everyone can have a proverbial seat at the table.

More people at the table means more perspectives are represented. As Aurora Archer, co-Founder and CEO of The Bellatrix Group reminded us during the June 25 Episode of Back to the Futurethis moment we are living in is a necessary moment of transformation, and “we need to bring a much broader group of individuals to the table in the creation and design of what needs to be reimagined. If COVID has showed us anything, it’s that there is an entire swath of humanity that is woefully being ignored, not understood, and certainly not serviced.” Successful creativity is open to the new ideas and sources of inspiration, and takes into account the many ways that existing schemes might be interpreted. By looking at ideas through a new lens, the same way creatives looked at platforms through a new lens, entirely new opportunities for creativity can be unlocked.

“We need to bring a much broader group of individuals to the table in the creation and design of what needs to be reimagined. If COVID has showed us anything, it’s that there is an entire swath of humanity that is woefully being ignored, not understood, and certainly not serviced.”

Aurora Archer, Bellatrix Group

As we move out of strict lockdown and more of our traditional production comes online, the brands that are able to hold on to their scrappy approaches and invite new ideas to the table will see the long-term benefit of the short-term challenge that COVID presented all of us.

The Stagwell Group is a digital-first marketing company serving clients with simplicity and speed at scale. To learn more, head to, or visit us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube.

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