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What is Accountable Creative? (Content Marketing Fuel)

Posted on: 06/10/2013

Flashy. Viral. Slick. Cool. When marketers use these words to describe what they want to create, I get a twitch. It doesn’t stop until I get an answer to the inevitable question: Why?

I can’t help myself, really. I have a deep-seeded need to know what “cool” is going to do for their business. “Cool” is not a goal. It’s something people say about shoes. I’m a skeptic of “cool.”

I think starting with “cool” is one of the worst mistakes a marketer can make. And I think it’s at the root of why some companies aren’t ready for the era of big content – and why most agencies aren’t primed to help get you there.

Traditional advertising and marketing agencies often use the term “creative” as a label for internal teams with production-specific skills — such as design, development, copywriting and film/video production. The outputs from those teams are considered “the creative,” while business goals are considered “the strategy” that precedes the creative process. In those scenarios, the creative folks want to make the “cool,” all the while talking about how they’re constrained by the strategy folks.

We’re not a traditional agency. And I think that’s most evident in our refusal to think of creative and strategy as separate, siloed entities. We believe in Accountable Creative.

In practical terms, Accountable Creative is the process of crafting marketing strategy, creative concepts and digital experiences under rigorous standards of accountability – where all creative deliverables are intimately tied to measurable business goals.

In functional terms, delivering Accountable Creative means that the strategy—the plan and approach for meeting the business need—is woven throughout each step of the creative process, from the concepting phase to final video rendering to launch.

In simple terms, it means we define cool differently. It means we’re not after the quick “look at me!” It means we’re after delivering powerful stories that resonate with our clients’ audience at a deeper level. It’s the “Wow, these people really get me” cool rather than the “Wow, that was really fun to watch; now I can get back to what I was doing” cool.

We believe in Accountable Creative. This means we deliver:
Decisions based on a strong, validated strategy.
Craftsmanship, not showmanship.
Design with a clarity of purpose, not design for design’s sake.
Value-laden information that people desire or need; not glitzy or clever regurgitation of value propositions.
A component of a larger buying process, that addresses a moment of need within the buyer’s journey, from awareness to purchase to advocacy
Work that is measured, analyzed and iterated for longer-term value.

So while I’m a skeptic of “cool,” I still think it can be achieved. But it’s a different kind of cool. It’s the cool you discover when content drives deeper engagement with your audience, generates more qualified leads, closes more sales, and gets more people spreading your message for you. It’s the kind of cool that sparks loyalty, cultivates relationships and turns heads.

We think answering the “why” is much cooler than showcasing the what. That’s accountable creative.