A view from Callum Johnston: Judge creatives on the work they produce – not where they sit

The question is not whether media can do creative. What we should be asking is: where will we be 10 years from now?

Today is a new day. It’s time to shot put the old-school ball and chain like an Olympian.

We are becoming the thing you skip. The interrupter. Persona non grata.

Technology has moved on. But much of adland is still stuck in the past. We failed to keep up.

Think I’m wrong? We’re still debating whether media can do creative while Elon is mining cryptocurrency on Mars, for fuck’s sake.

Smart thinking and new technologies have taught the established medium of television some new tricks. Find out how to grab viewers’ attention at our Campaign Online Briefing – TV 2021: Changing Channels


Netflix doesn’t like commercial breaks. Sure, but it uses data and algorithms to inform what it makes. It serves up different creative depending on the audience, and no-one is questioning its creativity. No wonder big tech is hoovering up adland talent.

The question is not: can media do creative? What we should be asking is: where will we be 10 years from now? And what can we do differently that will deliver 10, 20, 100 times more effectiveness for our clients? That is how the unicorns of this world are built – customer-centric thinking.

That’s why we launched Supernova, the7stars’ creative production studio. We wanted to experiment with what happens when you rewire the best traditional skill sets and the latest technologies in brand new ways. And let’s be clear: the media and data analysts aren’t doing the creative. The newly hired creatives are doing the creative. 

But what we’re building is not a sum of its parts. We are building a base camp at the intersection of creativity, data, production and technology. It’s about enabling clients to align their creativity with data, tech, media intelligence, and channel strategy – to drive relevance and amplify effectiveness across a multichannel plan.

The agency model is evolving. By combining in-house creative production with partnership expertise, it is possible to carve out unique deals that provide clients with the freedom to originate, produce, and creatively engineer campaigns across their entire TTL channel strategy.

Dynamic creative optimisation, or social at scale, is the tip of a gargantuan iceberg. We’re not just looking at DCO today, but what it could be five to 10 years from now.  Scale is nothing without brilliant creative thinking. So we’ll be in the lab trying to perfect that secret sauce.

This isn’t a return to full service – that was 40 years ago. Is Tesla the return to the Sinclair C5?

This is about experimenting in a sandpit of creative technology. This is about allowing clients to be light-footed and agile in their creativity and finding the next big thing that will deliver more value.

We will not go gently into that good night. Nor will we let our clients. We will be happy, constantly iterating. Because without constant experimentation and iteration; Amazon would be selling only books. Uber would be a limo share service in San Fran. And Netflix would be renting grubby VHS, in the arse of nowhere.

The madmen era is over. But still, we can use an app to get whisky delivered in 20 minutes. Draper would be a fan. Let’s embrace it. And let’s judge creatives on the work they do – not where they sit.

Callum Johnston is head of Studio Supernova at the7stars

Photo: Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit