Marketers Frustrated With ‘Play-it-Safe’ Leadership Says Lions State of Creativity Report

The annual report reveals tensions within the industry, with ‘the client-agency relationship under significant strain.’

According to the Annual State of Creativity report from Lions, while 2023 saw pressing macroeconomic concerns stifle the creative industry’s ambitions and forced budget cuts, in 2024 “a much more positive tale emerges.”

However, there look to be some considerable issues on the inside.

“This is a unique window into the global creative landscape, and what we’re seeing is that although the sentiment is outwardly optimistic, inwardly the industry is at odds,” said the study and Spencer Fox, SVP, Business Lead, Advisory, Lions.


 

“There’s optimism around progress and investment, but tensions that need to be worked through if we’re going to realise the potential of creativity as a growth driver. Essentially, there’s a communication breakdown.”

The study, titled Communication Breakdown On The Road To Recovery, found that businesses are reporting promising growth and an increase in marketing investment, with 51% of brand and agency respondents saying they anticipate stronger growth this year.

“There’s optimism around progress and investment, but tensions that need to be worked through if we’re going to realise the potential of creativity as a growth driver. Essentially, there’s a communication breakdown.”

Growing Tensions

However, it adds, the opportunity to capitalize on this with groundbreaking creative work might be at risk, with responses revealing two growing tensions driving a wedge between key creativity stakeholders.


 

This year’s study revealed that there are “glaring discrepancies in how brands experience the agency–client relationship compared to their agency partners,” Lions said in a release.

It added that when asked about the partnership, brands “expressed a more positive attitude towards it, while creative partners painted a starkly different picture.”

It suggests that brands are less in the know of the reality of their situation.

The study said that senior leadership was the second target of criticism with brand-side respondents expressing difficulty in getting executives to embrace creativity.

According to the findings “this was attributed, in part, to an absence of creative people in the boardroom, with more traditional, risk-averse marketers taking seats.”

Despite the majority of people wanting to push the boundaries of their creative work, conservative leaders make them feel like they can’t.

“Our findings show that brands predicting higher growth for 2024 are 6x more likely to prioritize creativity, are 4.6x more likely to have a higher marketing spend than 2023 and put more investment into brand building. It’s consistent evidence for the business case for creativity,” said Fox.

The study draws its findings from a global survey of nearly 3,000 creatives and marketers, along with 1-on-1 conversations with leaders from across the industry.


The full State of Creativity is available for download here.

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Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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