Experienced Ad-Side Creative Director Says Content and Creative Are The Same
While it may not always be obvious, there has long existed an invisible wall between “creatives” (art directors and copywriters charged with dreaming up marketing campaigns and executions) and those of us who were not trained to be, well, creative. The world of content marketing is systematically tearing down that wall, from both sides.
Today’s ad creatives are building out integrated, holistic campaigns, forcing the incorporation of social and digital. And, digital-centric content marketers are developing bigger ideas that can carry through to above-the-line print, television, radio and outdoor.
In my never-ending search for answers to the question, “Are content marketers today’s ad creatives?” I called on David Bonner, Executive Creative Officer at On Ideas, to sit down for another installment of Thismoment in Content Marketing.
Bonner and I worked together for a bit at Doe-Anderson in the mid-2000s. He was the Chief Creative Officer, and I was a fledgling PR account rep that knew a little something about these new social platforms and blogging. In his tenure there I wound up moving up to Director of Social Media and then VP and Director of Interactive. So we pitched a lot of business and worked on a lot of brands together.
His work over the years has touched a number of brands, but I am most familiar with our collective Maker’s Mark work. He’s also worked with brands like Kohler, Winn Dixie, American Red Cross, Shoney’s, and that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Jason Falls: Welcome to Thismoment in Content Marketing from our friends at Thismoment where we are talking to the movers and shakers, cookers, and bakers in the world of content marketing. Who is creating compelling content? How, why, and what are the outcomes? I’m your host, Jason Falls.
And today we have another unique perspective on this world of content, David Bonner. David is the Executive Creative Director at On Ideas, an ad agency marketing firm in Jacksonville, Florida. He has led creative at a number of agencies and worked with some really amazing brands over the years. I personally have even worked with David at a couple of his stops, most notably when we worked together at Doe Anderson here in Louisville.
David, good to see you again.
David Bonner: Hey, it’s great seeing you Jason. Thanks so much.
Jason Falls: Glad to have you. So if memory serves, once upon at time you were naval intelligence. How does one go from being Mark Harmon to a creative director?
David Bonner: Great question. So the short story is I read this book called “What Color is Your Parachute?” So everything that book said like turn in your gun and badge and your credentials, and become an advertising copywriter. So that’s what I did.
Jason Falls: So if everybody goes and reads that book will they become an advertising copywriter?
David Bonner: That’s exactly what will happen, provides the exact same answer regardless of who you are. It’s almost like a magic eight ball. Is really what it is.
Jason Falls: Oh, very nice. So apparently it turned out well for you.
David Bonner: It did, thank heavens, because if not, I’d probably still be living in my parents’ basement.
Jason Falls: Well you know, there’s not bad things to being in CIS, I suppose. But nice choice I suppose.
So when I knew you here in Louisville at Doe Anderson, social was just starting to emerge for sort of the bleeding edge brands. Most brands were afraid of it. You’ve been leading ad creatives during this evolution over the past eight to ten years. How has marketing changed?
David Bonner: I think you were the beginning of the internet really, Jason, is what happened. You and Al Gore, that’s how all this started. So really, we owe it all to you.
Increasingly, I think the agencies have dropped the Kool-Aid and they get it, and they understand that engagement is so much more important, and having dialog is so much more important, and everybody who is watching this, that they get it. Now getting there has been, that’s been the dog’s breakfast.
I’ve now gone through three different agencies where we’ve transitioned into that digital world. So we’ve taken traditional and moved them over. And that, on the other hand, has been absolutely horrific. It’s just been train wreck after train wreck. And eventually people understand it’s a little bit like putting architects and engineers in the same world together. So you have to construct something not only that’s beautiful but works, and it has meaning to it, and it’s going to affect your lifestyle. So I think that’s what’s happened over the years.
Jason Falls: So I had this running theory that content marketing is really ad creative for the digital era. If that’s accurate, what does that mean about classically trained creatives?
David Bonner: Well, it means that they have to realize that they’re no longer at the center of the universe. I think it’s that Copernican shift that happened in the world is that the heroes in this journey are customers and that it’s all about them, not about how many one shift pencils you have.
Jason Falls: Wow. So in my experience then, kind of rolling off that same question, there’s always been a line drawn between, at least in the ad agency world that I’ve worked in, there’s been a line drawn between creatives and everyone else. Is the democratization of media the fact that anybody can now create content, whether it be visual or written or what not, and publish it? Is it blurring that line between creatives and everyone else? And is that a good or a bad thing?
David Bonner: Yeah, you know I don’t know exactly what the cause is exactly. Certainly we’ve been through this extraordinary revolutionary sort of shift. Regardless, it’s a better thing and regardless that mass collaboration, whether it’s mass collaboration with an agency or mass collaboration within the world, it is toning up our ideas and making sure that they’re more relevant, that they’re more robust, that the ideas work, and that they’re working and they’re optimal for everyone. So we have that constant check now in the world to make sure that the ideas just don’t appeal to a small group of white guys who went to Yale, but now it has to work in the real world.
So that’s a great thing. And collaborative ideation, and collaborative sort of vision, and iterative storytelling, and all that is just so fantastic. It’s just working really wonderfully well. So I love where we’ve evolved to.
Jason Falls: Well, and how do you then in managing a group of creative people that collaborate, whether it be art directors and copywriters who are more traditionally trained, or sort of the digital PR social content folks today, how do you keep them focused on the ultimate task at hand and not sort of infighting for who leads the creative ideation?
David Bonner: Yeah, you know recently I’ve gone back to read John Wooden’s book, [inaudible 00:06:01] The Success Pyramid. And Wooden was all about team. And it was about doing the little things together, and we’re all working together to make sure . . . I don’t know whether it’s Wooden or it’s a little bit like a garden in some ways and keeping the garden healthy, and it requires planting the basil next to the tomatoes to make sure that the bugs don’t get all [inaudible 00:06:26]. You know, it’s like this really weird sort of Gaea approach to saving the world, one creative department at a time, is that we all work together and that we’re all symbiotic to one another.
Jason Falls: How important is it when you interview a copywriter, or an art director, or a social content person, to understand digital social and or sort of the creative process from the other perspective?
David Bonner: Yeah, I think regardless of whether it was back then in the dark ages five years ago, or whether it’s today, I think there still needs to be this absolute curiosity and this absolute interest in others and the absolute interest in whatever it is that ends up on your desk for that day, and that’s what makes this world so interesting.
So those people who have that innate curiosity and that innate, I would say, growth mindset, that Carol Dweck sort of growth mindset, is all about discovering something new and bringing it to the world in this really new relevant way. So if they still have that spark and that glimmer in their eye, then that’s good.
Jason Falls: Excellent. David, where can people find more about you and On Ideas on the inter webs?
David Bonner: On the inter webs you can find us at onideas.com, pretty easy. And I’m certainly on LinkedIn and a couple of other places, although increasingly I’m being secretive out in that world. So you’ll have to look for me pretty closely. I’m at davidbonner.com.
Jason Falls: Excellent. David, thanks so much for taking some time with us.
David Bonner: My pleasure. Thanks, Jason.
Jason Falls: And thank all of you for joining us for another episode of Thismoment in Content Marketing. Check out other interviews in a pretty nifty content marketing tool in of itself over there at thismoment.com. See you next time.