"So you're a 'Creative Strategist,' eh? You've got some nerve. Don't you know there's an impenetrable wall between strategy and creative??? It's the one we throw the brief over. Strategists shouldn't write copy and creatives don't do that insight-y stuff."

I've definitely experienced agency cultures like this. They suck. And they artificially carve people out into neat little categories. Which might be great for Type A personalities, but it doesn't make for great branding in our mobile social era.

Since 2013 I've worked at agencies that don't draw such a fine line between strategy and creative. When I'm in the midst of researching how an audience behaves across a set of digital channels, I start sharing the most interesting tidbits with the creative team ASAP so we can discuss and get inspired.

And when it's time to concept campaigns and always-on content across different social channels, my knowledge of the culture and the functionality of the platforms - and how the target audience uses them - can yield big ideas and sometimes even specific executions. Which is why I'm usually asked to participate in the initial ideation sessions.

Let me show you what I mean...

 

FINDING INSPIRATION IN CUSTOMER PASSION POINTS:

Social listening revealed a big “love” theme across many Chipotle conversations. People talking about being on dates at Chipotle. Expressing romantic feelings for another person via Chipotle (literally and figuratively). #ChipotleIsBae and “Chipotle & Chill. And on and on.

Knowing the client was interested in experimenting with Tumblr, I refined this “Chipotle romance” idea and worked with my creative team to have some fun with it.

 

EMBRACING CLIENT LIMITATIONS:

National Geographic needed us to generate excitement about their annual Geography Bee, and introduce the contestants to their fans on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. But all they gave us to work with were some photos and a survey they'd conducted with these 10-16 year-old contestants. One of the survey questions asked the kids where they hoped the study of geography will take them as an adult. So we honed in on that to let the personality and exuberance of these brilliant kids shine through (see example tweet above).

We were also able to get our hands on video footage that each of the kids had used in their applications to the Bee. We edited those into heartwarming, funny videos for Facebook and Snapchat. 

 

MAKING SEEMINGLY BORING CATEGORIES FUN:

"We need an agency that can get fired up about pushing pipe. And making plumbers and contractors love us." That was the initial challenge when Ferguson Enterprises contacted us about taking over their social media marketing to trade customers. Luckily we'd done our homework, and knew that this audience - especially plumbers - were willing to engage if given the right conversation starters.

I lead a social competitive audit and a digital ethnography to determine the best ways to position Ferguson's social content to this audience. The results have been transformative. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts - both of which showed literally no engagement on most posts at the time we took over - are now teeming with life 1 year later. I still personally plan their monthly content calendars, and concept the bulk of the posts. I even write copy from time to time.