The converging landscape of creative disciplines

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Caroline Blainey
Caroline Blainey

This is an article by Caroline Blainey

I began my career in advertising as an art director over 17 years ago. In that time the landscape has changed a great deal. For me, it is not so much the agencies themselves that have changed, but the world around them and, perhaps most notably, the client’s expectations.

I studied Copywriting and Art Direction at West Herts College, Watford, taught by Tony Cullingham, a pioneering course director and advertising industry veteran. He taught me that brand communications work at their best when they have human truth at the heart of them, created and communicated in a way that resonates with the consumer.

This ideology was instilled in me from the very beginning of my career, and it’s something I’ve carried with me through every avenue of my creative journey.

When I worked with HHCL & Partners in 2003, a WPP agency at the time, their creative was also grounded in the same set of beliefs.

They only created work that was deeply in touch with and reflected reality. This could manifest in the form of humour, politics, personal experience or the news agenda. Whatever the connection with the brand or human truth, their creative resonated with the consumer on a human level – a fundamental ethos of Unity’s.

I also spent five years working as an Art Director for The Guardian. They are a brand that people trust and believe in; they tell news stories beautifully and from all angles truthfully, while never compromising their brand values.

Moving from advertising to (what Unity used to be) PR, hasn’t been as much of a leap as it may seem. The reason for this is because Unity, as a new kind of creative agency, is having the same conversations with brand marketing managers as advertising agencies.

In fact, I would argue that I haven’t changed my discipline; Unity has simply adapted to the changing agency landscape.

I am filling a genuine need for a Creative Director in this new space. As a result, my role at Unity is hardly different to that at an advertising agency, especially in today’s landscape.

Clients expect their agency to have the capacity to cover a campaign from start to finish and across every touchpoint, saving the client money, time and simplifying relationships. But most importantly, this holistic technique creates clarity and one distinct voice from the brand to the consumer.

How do I see the creative industry evolving over the next few years?

Speed and technology will transform agency life as we know it. More media outlets will emerge that will create even more clamour and noise. It’s the responsibility of the agency, and of new kinds of creative agencies like Unity, to rise and cut through this noise. This can be done by grounding campaigns in human truth and creative work that truly resonates with consumers.

This is why joining Unity as Creative Director makes so much sense and feels like such a perfect fit. Unity’s entire ethos is grounded in creating human happiness; something I’ve built my entire career around.

At the heart of it, if an agency can’t relate to the audience and have true cultural insight based on human truth, its creative will be meaningless and won’t cut through the noise.

I’m often asked what I think an agency of the future will look like. I hope it’ll be a collective of brilliant creative agencies (working together, not scrabbling for pieces of the same business) so they can make better work for brands that consumers genuinely love. My utopian future is that the creative cream will rise to the top. With so much content being generated and not seen, brands will be forced to learn who will cut through the consumer consciousness with truly outstanding creative work.

Ultimately, what Unity embody and what I stand for is grounded in brand love and human truth. I can’t see a disconnect between what I did then and what I’m doing now.

Caroline Blainey is Creative Director at Unity (which has been shortlisted for Consultancy of the Year at the EMEA SABRE Awards for Creative Consultancy).