035 : Ensuring Your Creative Firm’s Longevity in the Face of Crisis and Disruption with Ed Warren


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“Advertising had always interested me because it was a combination of creativity and purpose.” It is the strength and adaptability of a firm’s creativity and purpose that allows them to navigate the myriad of challenges presented by both disruptions in the industry and crisis on the world stage (the pandemic being the most obvious example). Today’s guest explains how his own agency is able to stay nimble and on top of their game in 2020.

Any leader’s chief concern when putting together a resilient organization should be hiring the right people and making it clear that they are all equally valuable members of the team. “Creativity is the ability to connect the unconnected,” says our guest. An agency can produce its best work by “taking the creatives off the pedestal” and having every voice and way of thinking in the organization upheld at the same level. “Regardless whether you’re a big or small organization, the most important decision you can make is hiring. The impact of a bad account will be gone in six months. A bad hire can damage your business for years.”

Ed Warren and Steve Chaparro discuss why the different departments in an agency ought not to be segregated, hiring best practices, how to create an autonomous culture within an organization, the pandemic as being the death knell to the “old world” of advertising, and the need for creative entrepreneurship to thrive in the industry’s new normal.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • The tension and synergy between account people, strategists, and creatives
  • Working on a project with the client instead of for the client
  • Using process to inform the end product versus starting the process with the end product
  • How new modes of streaming video have changed the advertising game
  • What makes a great creative director?
  • How COVID-19 has impacted the emphasis on people and culture in creative firms
  • Changing expectations in terms of talent as companies hire newer generations

Resources Mentioned in this episode:

About the Guest:

Ed Warren is a Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Sunshine, a brand and entertainment company specialising in fashion, luxury and lifestyle. As CCO, Ed is responsible for leading the direction of Sunshine’s creative output and fostering a culture where world-class entertainment can flourish. Previously, he was the Founding Partner at Creature and Creative Director at Mother, two creative agencies based in London.

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Welcome to the culture design show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.

 Steve Chaparro 

This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio. This is where I help creative organizations transform their cultures, from being controlling to being collaborative.

Now, here are some of the things that I’ve learned. Your creative talent demands a co-creative culture in order to produce their best work. But there’s a problem. So let’s see if we can recognize some of these signs.

There’s no framework to move your culture forward. You have high turnover and low morale. There’s increasing toxicity across all levels. There’s team engagement and satisfaction that are on the decline. There’s a misalignment between the employer brand and the employee experience. And there’s poor communication about expectations and values. So if you want to learn more about how I provide facilitation and coaching for your creative team, reach out to me at CultureDesignStudio.com.

My guest today is Ed Warren, he is the partner and Chief Creative Officer at Sunshine, a brand and entertainment company specializing in fashion, luxury and lifestyle, as CCO Ed is responsible for leading the direction of Sunshine’s creative output and fostering a culture where a world class entertainment can flourish. Previously, he was the Founding Partner at Creature and Creative Director at Mother to creative agencies based in London. Ed, welcome to the show.

 Ed Warren 


Steve Chaparro 

I appreciate you coming on. I had a lot of eyes, I was looking preparing for this. For this conversation. I was very excited because I saw some key things as I read, you know, and how you describe some of your work. And I’m just really excited to talk about, you know, this mashup of creativity and culture.

 So I’m really excited to hear about that.

Ed Warren 


Steve Chaparro 

The first thing I’d love to hear about Ed is if you can just share with our audience a little bit more or a little bit about your creative journey, what led you, how did you embark on this path to becoming a chief creative officer at Sunshine.

 Ed Warren 

Well, it’s been a slightly kind of unusual journey for me, I guess, in that I slightly fell into advertising by accident, in that I studied Chinese at the university. And then whilst I was there, I was very into like theater and filmmaking and all of that sort of stuff. And then went and did a postgraduate degree in Taiwan. And kind of in the way of being too long in academia just ran out of money.

I was thinking about where I wanted to what I wanted to do, and, and advertising had always interested me because it was a combination of creativity, but creativity with a purpose. And applied to a graduate scheme at what was then a very successful agency called low in London, and got a job and turned up in my first day with my pencil in my top market, like ready to make some ads.

And then was someone that had to explain to me that I had actually gone on to the account management graduate scheme and that they were literally in the creative department and the strategy and accounting department when different buildings connected to buy a bridge, which is very bad feng shui in my view.

And then spent the next decade kind of moving gradually over towards the creative side, I spent a long time as a planner and a strategist. And then when I went to Mother switched and started doing both strategy and creative. And I think that approach has always informed the way that I think about how the marketing and advertising industry works.

And Mother was a fantastic place and remains a fantastic agency. And I was there in a kind of high watermark for them as a business in the early and mid-2000s. And it was kind of happy chaos in that you had some of the most brilliant minds in the industry at that time, all of whom now seem to be running agencies all over the world together in the same building, and very, very little structure.

And initially, that was terrifying. But then as you started to understand how the business worked, you realize that that could work for you as a creative and I simply started coming up with ideas and became more valuable, I think to Mother as a creative mind and as a strategic mind though I did both for a while .

And then from there, I left Mother and started an agency called Creature in London, with our intention being to create a business that could both make things that it profited from directly as well as selling Consultancy Services. Because if in the creative industries, you can make money in two ways you can get people to buy your time, or get people to buy your stuff. Trying to build a business that could do both was the intention.

And that was fascinating. And I learned a ton doing that. And certainly on the How does one run a business and build a culture, taking a company from five people up to 50/60 people.

And then left Creature and went and joined with some old colleagues, your Mother at Sunshine, who would wear the ambition of that business was very kind of close to the just thinking that I’d been doing about how advertising and how that business needed to evolve over time. And I’d be missing.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah. So how early in the sort of lifecycle at sunshine Did you come in

Ed Warren

Sunshine had been going for about four years when I joined it. And I knew the founders Al and Chris, because we had worked together very closely at mother we were there at the same time.

And while I was at Mother at that point, we were very interested in the sort of experiments of how you would move. And the way that brands built relationships with an audience away from interruption and towards contribution.

So we were making things that Mother that were very non-traditional, so as well as many, many big TV ads, which is what the agency is famous for. We were also doing things like creating feature films with Shane Meadows for Eurostar, we were publishing comic books for Timeout.

We were taking musicals to the Edinburgh Fringe. And so this sort of exploration of going, how can brands become credible creators of cultural product, rather than just interrupters of cultural product with something that we were investigating at that point.

And that’s something I found fascinating. And when Al and Chris set up Sunshine, which was kind of a collaboration between people from the entertainment industry and people from the brand and advertising industry, I was very interested in what they were doing.

And having realized that creature, a brilliant place, though it is, had become very much a kind of traditional advertising agency, and very amicably, I stepped over into taking the role of CCO, sunshine and then moved quite rapidly out to LA, because so much of our business is in the entertainment.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, right. Well, I want to talk a little bit more in a moment about your work specifically at Sunshine, but kind of going back to your creative journey or your journey throughout the different agencies that you work that what are some of the things that you’ve learned about fostering creative talent at those agencies.

And I tend to think that many times, at least in my own journey at the different firms that I’ve been at, I have learned by the good things that I experienced and was a part of, but I have also learned probably more tremendously by the things that did not go well. Along that spectrum, what have you learned about fostering creative talent?

Ed Warren

Um, well, firstly, I think you have to foster a culture of responsibility. And, I mean, one of I think part of the reason why Mother was the powerhouse that it was at that time, was because it forced creators to have a direct relationship with the client.

And there were no, there were no account then. And so the, the idea being that the client should be talking directly to the people who are making the work and building a relationship with them. And the creative would be directly pitching his own work, which now seems, I think, fairly self-evident, but at the time was quite revolutionary.

And that’s, I imagine why sunshine became this breeding ground for high power creative directors because from the beginning, they were forced to develop strong relationships with the clients understand the client’s business and the business problems, and then apply creativity in service of that rather than simply rather than being kind of in cotton wool, which was certainly the culture in the UK, in the 90s and 80s, of how it talent was treated.

And I also think that kind of taking the creative off the pedestal is actually a very positive thing in terms of how one builds a creative culture generally, within an agency or a creative business.

It’s funny, I mean, advertising is one of the few industries that uses the word creative. Which is a in some way we think about it’s quite a strange word, a strange descriptor of a specific department of people. But, surely everyone within an advertising agency is created worse, they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

And, and so starting to kind of, I’ve often found that the places where I have worked have delivered the best and most exciting work of one where all voices are valued. And that you have a bunch of smart people gathering around a problem. And some of those people may be approaching that problem analytically. And some people may be approaching it laterally. But they’re all trying to solve the same problem rather than having a kind of waterfalls of process.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I’m glad you went there. Because that was gonna be one of my next questions was, is I’m talking to creative directors or even agency founders. And in hearing a lot, and we’ll get into maybe down the down the road in our conversation a bit about some of the shifts and trends that we’re seeing.

But, you know, I’ve had conversations with folks that have talked about one the inherent synergies, but also, in some cases, the inherent tensions between account folks, strategists and creatives. And it’s very interesting for me to hear you say that, that creatives, maybe in some cases, now need to build those relationships with the clients as well.

But also, I think part of that is being able to communicate and being able to present being able to articulate the ideas, whereas maybe at times past, it was the account folks that actually were the ones that communicated that. So I’d love to maybe explore that tension and synergy of those three buckets.

Ed Warren 

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I remember when we first started in advertising, and Frank Lowe, who was the founder of Lowe, which was the agency I worked at in London, he, he explained, in his view, account, people were responsible to the clients business, creatives were responsible to the client’s product, and strategists were responsible to the audience.

And that always struck me as being quite an interesting way of looking at things. Because if you have three different perspectives being brought together, you should get something good out of the end. But I think one of the issues that advertising as an industry has had is that because it is principally interested in selling time, it likes to put people in boxes.

So you go, you’ve got the count people, and my god, they’re good in the room and organized, but they can’t think creatively in any way, shape, or form. And you’ve got creative people who are fragile, childlike geniuses, but you but you can’t put them in the room with a client because they’ll throw something at them. And you’ve got planners who are airy, fairy distant, like analytical thinkers, but you can’t ask them to buy a train ticket.

And obviously, that’s bulls**t. Because that’s not how people are actually wired. And if you if you can work with a small, highly functional autonomous team, where people have a clear, you know, the phrase t-shaped people, I got a deep layer of, of expertise, but a broad set of interests. And I think that tends to work quite well.

And when some of those rigid, spreadsheet-based boundaries break down, that tends to be where you get a positive thing happening in terms of the cycle of creativity, it’s difficult. It’s difficult making anything creative. It’s particularly difficult making something creative when you’re making it for someone else who has complete power over it.

A creative director once described his job to me as I build a sandcastle on the beach, and then I have to move the sandcastle down the beach, trying to keep the shape of the sandcastle as much as I can. With some people trying to help me and some people trying to kick over the sand house.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, that’s a great, great metaphor. Great picture in the mind. Yeah. Those are, those are some interesting things. And I think some of the things that I’ve been when I’ve talked to some creative directors is, as they talk, maybe we can talk about some of the shifts that we’re seeing.

One of the things that I heard was that clients many times, you know, have been in the past have been satisfied with you doing the work for them. But many times now, they’re actually looking for you to do the work with them or alongside them. I mean, you’re in a specific space in terms of entertainment, luxury and lifestyle. But is that are you seeing that to be somewhat true as one of those shifts as we enter into this new era?

Ed Warren 

Yes, definitely. I mean, I think that the you know, if you go back to the 80s and 90s Certainly in the UK, or in the kind of Mad Men era, the client would turn up with a problem go away. And two months later, you’d come back with an advert, right? And those days were long gone by the time I joined the industry.

But now I think everything is mutable and debatable and shifting and, and more often with the client. So the clients that I’m working with now, the last thing that you’re thinking about it, is we’re starting with advertising being the answer. Now, what’s the question? In that the question, the questions that we’re asking a bigger and broader than that, and you’re, you’re trying to foster a, a positive relationship with an audience.

And there are many, many different routes to getting to a positive relationship with an audience, and the old, the old system of going, there’s a social contract that in order to watch television, you also have to watch the ads, that’s gone. And so I think all of the rules are shifting, and the playing field has got much, much bigger, which means that which can be terrifying. But if you’re working with the right clients, and if you’re working with them as partners, rather than as a service provider, you can do amazing things.

Steve Chaparro 

How much does the creative process inform those and solutions, as opposed to relying on best practices or fundamentals that have worked in the past? I think many times we, because if we have a certain amount of expertise, maybe we’ve had certain amount of decades in the industry. And we knew we know what worked in the past.

And it’s very, it can be very easy for us to rely on those past experiences to say, well, I’ll just do this because it worked in the past. I wonder how much like when you saying if the spectrum of audience preferences and desires are so broad, and so maybe even unpredictable? How can we use process to actually inform the end product versus starting the process with the end product?

Ed Warren 

Well, I think Okay, so that’s a big question. And, but to back up for a second, I think it’s hard to, to understate the level of change that has happened within the industry, certainly in my career in it so far.

I was talking to someone at Facebook a few years ago. And he said that if you digitized everything that humanity has made, everything, every book, every movie, every newspaper, article, every photo, everything from the cave paintings in Glasgow, through 297, through 2007. So bridesmaids being released, no 2012 bridesmaids being released. And if you digitize all of it, it takes 500 billion gigabytes of data. And today, we make 500 billion gigabytes of data every 10 minutes.

Steve Chaparro 


Ed Warren

So that so the kind of the explosion of stuff that is now present because of the phones in our pockets, because of the social digital revolution, because of a million different streaming platforms, with an insane amount of content means that available attention is gone.

And so when I began in advertising, in a when the ad break came on television, you could go and make the put the kettle on to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet, that was kind of that was kind of what you had to do. Now, there is no more available attention. So the idea of being able to borrow people’s attention is getting harder and harder and harder.

But conversely, that actually should make this a kind of golden age for creativity, because in an environment where you can no longer reliably buy people’s attention, you have to earn it. And that will become and you could we can see it is becoming more and more and more and more important to any business to figure out how they are going to earn the attention of people as opposed to just buy it.

And I think in the past where it used to be that creativity was the kind of wrapper that made an interruption or a message palatable. That’s no longer the case it now is the only game in town. And so I think that a from the perspective of creative businesses that that’s incredibly powerful because you’re you actually even though the world is much scarier now in some ways. It also if you’re able to foster genuinely creative cultures, you have an incredible unfair advantage in the marketplace.

 Steve Chaparro 

I wonder if like say for Netflix if they’re putting out as much content as they are these days just as an example. It but not talking to them specifically, but create you know these a new creative houses that have come on on the scene, how much of their work is kind of seen as being experimental, in terms of, hey, we’re going to do a swath of creative assets out there of, you know, streaming products, we’re gonna kind of put, you know, whatever it is, you know, 10 or 20 out there and then see what starts to work. And then base our future work based on the reaction of that, how much of that experimentation do you think is going on?

Ed Warren 

I mean, I think a huge amount. I mean, what the streaming services have, which TV didn’t have 10 years ago, is data, and scale. And if you have data and scale, then you can exploit a long tail of viewers in a way that wasn’t possible awhile ago.

So if you look at old TV, that was based on trying to make a small number of shows that were as broadly appealing as possible, because then you could sell the advertising space in that, predicting that you were going to reach as many people as he possibly could.

Now, in a Netflix world, you’re making shows that are as deeply engaging to a much narrower set of people as possible. Because if you can line up a million deep engagements you’ve won. But they’re wildly different approaches to the creation of content, wildly different, I mean, it’s a bit of a cliche, but Chef’s Table wouldn’t have been possible to have got made 15 years ago, no way.

Whereas now, those kind of the niche, everything is niche. And again, for brands, that can be an extremely powerful place to be, because if you’re a brand that people like and respect, you have permission to become a curator, certainly, and a creator, potentially, in terms of making things that people actually want to engage with.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, as that very interesting, how things are moving forward. I want to talk now about your role at sunshine we talked about before, a lot of your responsibility of chief creative officer is to oversee the creative output. But there are two things that I read on your LinkedIn profile that was really interesting, especially for this podcast, and that is your role in the Culture Development in Human Capital. Tell me a little bit more about your responsibility or your leadership in those areas.

Ed Warren 

Okay, so sometimes a small business, and there’s 30 auditors, it’s not a big shop by any means. In fact, I think, I think the age of the big shops is probably drawing to a close. And in some ways, that may not be a bad thing.

Um, but regardless of whether you’re a big organization or a small organization, I, the one thing I have definitely learned is that the most important decision that you make, is hiring. And getting that right, and getting the right type of people into your business and being obsessive about their quality. If you focus on that, everything else follows really. Um, you know, a bad account will be gone in six months, a bad hire, can damage your business for years and years and years, and no one’s happy at the end of it.

And but then I think in terms of how you build a supportive creative culture, particularly if it’s a small business, and I’m a big believer in high challenge, high support teams of in jargon, but creating an environment where you ask a lot of people, you give them a lot of autonomy. And you define the long term objective that they’re after. But give them freedom to find their way to that long term objective. And your role is to help steer them along that pathway and then you support them as much as you can.

So you’re, exposing people quite a lot and asking you a lot for from them and stretching them. But you also have a big net, to catch them if they fall. I believe that that’s a much more effective way of getting quality work out of people than it is to either micromanage them or kind of cost at them if you see what I mean.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah. How common is that that mindset or that approach to Creative Leadership at agencies, is that a prevalent approach or is it a few and far between?

Ed Warren 

Well, I mean, again, from my narrow personal experience, I would say it’s not yet that prevalent. But I think again, I think it’s changing I mean, a lot of the systems that have been developed by your sort of Silicon Valley companies thinking that way, and that that can be very interesting to learn from. I mean, one of the interesting things about old school advertising is that you educated people, particularly on the creative side, to be totally obsessed around their authorship and creating work that have their name on it.

And then the moment when they become senior enough that they tip over into being a creative director. And that role totally changes in terms of its focus in terms of its direction, that can be a difficult transition for people. And in terms of figuring out how they go from doing the work to help other people do better. And, you know, sometimes I’ve worked with brilliant creatives who are dreadful creative directors, because those two skill sets are not necessarily present, in everyone. You’re lucky if they are.

Steve Chaparro 

So let’s go into what some of those skills are, I’d love to kind of unpack that a bit in terms of what makes a great creative director in terms of being able to one, I think, bring some of that high challenge, but also high support, what are some of the things that a new or even an experienced creative director that needs to learn these things can do?

Ed Warren 

I mean, I think being able to, to listen, and to see the germ of brilliant ideas, and then create an environment where you help those ideas flourish. The I mean, I think, you know, if you’ve worked in the advertising industry, the most frustrating kind of creative director is one who just tells you what to write. And, because that’s what it made, when the pitch, it doesn’t help you. It’s quite, it’s quite demoralizing.

Whereas I think, if you can, if you see your role as being almost like a gardener, where you’re looking for those green shoots in your life that’s good. Like, if let’s clear away all of this stuff, and focus on that. And then let’s think about how we make it bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. And I mean, I often find the role that I play is less about shaping ideas, although that’s definitely part of it, but more about encouraging ambition, in the ideas that are coming back.

Because if the idea is small, why it takes as much time and as much effort to make a big idea or a great, rich idea as it does to make a small one. So how do you keep pushing the ambition and the scale of the things that you’re making, so that it’s not just a repetition, or a copy? Or a small kind of puny thing? And like, how do you make something big and powerful and great. And that doesn’t necessarily mean in terms of budget, I mean, in terms of, you can be creatively ambitious in the way that you design a website or email.

But to have that ambition, and to be constantly lighting the fire of ambition under people, I think that that’s a very, very important skill. And, and then to also to permit and to encourage failure. Because if you have a culture where people are not allowed to fail, they won’t be brave.

So you need to you need to kind of allow there to be bad ideas and encourage failure to happen and build in time for failure and for mistakes and for things to happen in the creative process. Which can be hard, because I think, I think the industry is also got addicted to adrenaline. And the way that it behave frequently?

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I think as I’m hearing you describe what some of those things are. And I think the idea of being able to one, stoke the fire of ambition, to how do you foster some of that, that thinking and also create this environment that were failure is okay, in, in the, in the service of learning, right in the service of being able to take lessons from those small failures and being able to learn from those moving forward.

I think of, you know, different, you know, I would say archetypes or different roles that a creative director could fulfill. You know, I think of a one hand there’s creative director as a creative where you’re actually dictating or shaping. Like, I used to use the word that use shaping the end product.

That’s one thing, but then I think of, maybe the creative director, as a facilitator, say, Hey, here’s the process. I’m going to lead you through the process as a leader, but I’m going to have you the creative actually put this up put this out, or turn this out. But then even the idea of almost being a coach of it does that seems to resonate maybe with you. If so, how so?

Ed Warren 

I think if you’re trying to create an autonomous culture, where you’re giving people autonomy and helping them get to complete mastery, and you should do that right because that makes them more valuable as assets within your business. Then the role of coach is really, really important.

And that role of going, how do I spot what their particular talent is? Or what are the areas where they need to develop a talent? And then how do I push them forward? or encourage them or sculpt them? Or whatever the direct response at that moment is? Yeah, completely.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I was talking with a chief people officer from an advertising agency. And she was telling me that many times in terms of coaching, you know, obviously, it’s best if that coaching comes from the leaders within the organization themselves with sometimes just due to bandwidth and capacity, sometimes they’ll bring in a third party coach.

But she also mentioned this, that she’s in her experience that she saw that if there was ever external coaching brought in, it was mainly for the account folks, or for the strategy, folks, but rarely for the creatives. How does that resonate or not with you?

Ed Warren 

Well, I suppose it depends on what the purpose of that coaching is. And also how you’re using the people within your business. So I mean, being coached on negotiation, for example, is incredibly helpful to account people who have to negotiate scopes. But it’s also really helpful for creative people, when it comes to negotiating the work, right, in terms of how does, you know, so much of advertising particularly, or particularly, you get to the higher levels of it is performative, in that it’s, it happens in a room with some people or now over zoom.

But how you kind of improve your performance skills in those areas? Yeah, that there are things that can be polished and should be and, and they can be polished, internally or externally, as you say. And mean, I think one of the important things for creative people, is just to make sure that you are structuring an environment and investing in that curiosity.

Because if you keep feeding that system with interesting, varied stuff, and you get better stuff out, like advertising in particular becomes dull, when it becomes self-referential. It is only looking at it only looking at itself, in terms of what it’s making. And it becomes interesting when you’re blending other things together.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, one of the I remember to that point, I was talking with one of my former colleagues, he was managing principal at an architecture firm that I worked at. And she was telling me that the work sometimes when we’re so client-focused, and we’re so intent on delivering a collapse, a process that is so you know, transformative for the client that many times we’ll do it to the detriment of our team.

And she said, yes, there’s an emotional, there’s the mental, there’s physical ramifications. But she said that the most powerful form of overload was this creative deficiency of not being able to have creative output anymore. Because there was just that they were, it’s like, as you said, self-referential, it basically looks like the last thing that we did. And been able to create this environment where new ideas can be brought in so that we’re constantly being inspired internally, but also for external props.

Ed Warren 

Yep. And I think creativity is the ability to connect the unconnected, if you’re boiling it right down. And, and in order to do that, you need to be curious, and you need to be able to see the hidden lines between things that no one else can see. And, and that’s powerful, but that’s also a muscle that you can work.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, yeah. Maybe let’s step back a little bit, you know, beyond just the the the work of sunshine and maybe look at the industry itself, you know, we’ve had some major shifts even before COVID a lot of things that were being reshaped environment in terms of the landscape of entertainment. But also now with COVID. What are some of the shifts that you’re seeing in creative firms with regards specifically to People and Culture?

Ed Warren 

So I mean, I think that the old system is dying. And whilst there may be many ostriches, who are pretending that it won’t, and that can continue for as long as it needs to, in a simple truth is that in a Netflix and iPhone world, the old ways that you used to build a relationship with an audience are failing at the same moment as that audience becomes radically intolerant of unsolicited noise.

And so that necessitates a change in the way that creative businesses who are helping brands build connections with people operate, and it probably necessitates a change within those businesses as well. And I mean, it’s interesting, I think that the old world of you tried to bring all of your talent in house and lock them in through contracts, and, and build a big creative team and measure your success by your headcount. All of those things are falling away, I believe.

And I mean, certainly, I see the way that the kind of manifest destiny of how the industry will evolve is towards brands becoming producers of content, as opposed to advertisers around content. And if and if you’re moving in and buy content, I don’t think I hate the word content. But I don’t just mean like, films on youtube, I mean, cultural product in a variety different ways.

And, and if you’re doing that, the role of the creative changes in that it stop, you stop becoming someone who’s expecting to offer every single element of the business of the work, and sit behind the editor in the edit suite, or whatever it is. And your role really, is to arrive at the initial concept that has to function as a business. And then you can build a team that may involve a lot of external experts around that thing.

So the sort of the necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and I think the necessity in our industry is around entrepreneurship, like how and creative entrepreneurship like, and I don’t just mean that in terms of building businesses, I mean, in terms of building properties, for brands that have value, like direct value, not a secondary, if we put this on TV, in the middle of America’s Got Talent, more people will buy our thing, but when you’re building a thing that builders own, that will build its own audience.

And it’s interesting, because I think that that changes everyone’s role, who’s gathered around making those things. So the role of your kind of account person becomes a lot more like an executive producer. kind of role, the role of your creative becomes a kind of development role. And the role of the planet becomes a lot more commercial. And, that’s really good. Because if you have those three legs of the stool, of make it up, make it happen, make it make money. But those that’s maybe a more helpful way of looking at how the creative process should work, because that’s how the creative process works. everywhere else.

Then you’re kind of well, the account person will take the brief and then the planner will rewrite the brief in smaller words for the creative, and then the creative will have two weeks to come back with an ad shaped thing. Like there will be there will be shops that will continue to behave like that they will be gone in 20 years, for sure.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I mean, I think as you’re talking about that, I think of it as many times we will we can do possibly is maybe strip away. Let’s call it baggage of what these roles have been described before. And let’s strip it down to its very essence of what our role is. And let’s let’s find different ways to actually make that happen.

Ed Warren 

Yeah, exactly. And I think the agencies that are obsessed with breaking the form factor, and breaking form factor, not just in their work, but in their process, and in their hiring, and in the way that they approach clients and in the types of relationship that they have with clients. They’re the agencies that will succeed.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah., as as we begin to wind down, I want to ask you one one last question. I was going one last direction. And that is we talking about some of these external factors of how the audience is changing. Our clients are changing, the work is changing. But I’m interested to get your take on how the expectations of talent is changing as the as new newer, or I should say, as younger folks are coming into the into the workforce, how are there different expectations, reshaping, you know, the way creative firms work, if at all?

Ed Warren 

They definitely are. I mean, it’s interesting, some of the best creative thinkers I’ve worked with, won’t allow me to hire them.

Steve Chaparro 

Can’t afford me.

Ed Warren 

I mean, I think we probably could afford them, but they don’t want to be tied down to a specific and this to a specific company. And it’s interesting, like some of the best, the best creative thinkers I’ve worked with over the last few years, almost have a kind of nomadic existence where they follow the work.

And I think that again, I think they can work very well if you can shape your business in that way because it allows you to cast projects perfectly, as opposed to casting projects just with The people that you have in the building. And so a smaller headcount, a move to having kind of trusted, either freelancers or experts or external people that you can bring in around projects. It’s a different way of running the business. But I think it’s a good way of running your business.

And I think if you can keep that internal core, very small, very tight, very generalist, which is where the hiring, like if you are going to hire those people, hire them, as well as you can. And if you think they have done enough interviews, maybe do another one. But then having the black book and aggressively building the black book. And then weaponizing it across different projects. That’s very, very powerful.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I’ve heard it referred to in the last three, four years or so where that this model that you’re describing of, on one hand, I want him having that that solid internal core team, but then been able to draw from the industry as kind of like the Hollywood model, where it’s the studio model, where you just basically form a team based on the project get the best people for the right project.

And people make sometimes people are just happier working that way, even though there’s a level of, of evincing insecurity. But that may be the way that fosters the best creativity for that particular project.

 Ed Warren 

Yeah. And it’s crazy Darwinism, right? It’s, it works if you’re working. And this is certainly how sunshine works. It’s how a number of the companies here that I admire work. And, and I think, you know, the delineation between Hollywood and Madison Avenue is getting more and more porous. And the delineation between all of these different creative industries, everything’s blurring into each other.

And that’s great, because, you know, if you’re building, you’re building a TV series for a brand as opposed to an ad for a brand, don’t work with an advertising creative work the screenwriter. If you’re if you’re building a experience for a brand, as opposed to a banner that you will hang above an experience for a brand, that don’t work with someone who’s only ever built banners for a brand work with Es Devlin.

And so that that kind of that ambition in terms of who we could work with, as opposed to who’s in the building? Yeah, if you have a small team, and a small team are looking for connections and are connected, then that’s very, very powerful.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, it’s interesting that you word that use that word, creative Darwinism, I was, I was talking with a pair of creatives and one of them actually was also an art curator. And he was talking about how, in this COVID era, that a lot of the cultural artifacts in terms of art and things like that some of them were accessible, some of them were not because of this working from home, sheltered in place type of environment.

I wonder if COVID in terms of creative Darwinism, is there? Is there been an effect of people working from home? Is that does that have an impact, positive or negative on that creativity?

Ed Warren 

Both. I mean, I think there’s a positive impact in terms of efficiency. And, and you know, you take away people’s commutes, and that tea breaks and all of the kind of dialogue that happens within a agency space, and people get more stuff done.

But what you miss in that is those serendipitous connections, and the I was just walking past your desk. And I overheard you saying this, when every conversation needs to be scheduled and planned, you lose quite a lot of the stuff that makes creative businesses spark, which is often unplanned, a moment in a corridor, or around a kettle, or whatever it is where people kind of talk to each other or an idea is sparked. Or something is overheard. So I’m missing the overheard elements, but I’m enjoying the efficiency.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, for sure. Well, I appreciate your time, Ed, folks, we’ve been talking to Ed Warren, Chief Creative Officer at Sunshine. And if people want to learn more about your work at Sunshine or just you yourself, where can people find out more about you?

Ed Warren 

Well, Sunshine is the SunshineCompany.com. And my email is [email protected].

Steve Chaparro 

Thank you, and I appreciate you for coming on the show.

Ed Warren 

My pleasure.


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