How The Creative World Is Decentralizing — And Why It’s The Best Thing For Everyone

The creative world is coming apart, and to be honest, it’s for the best. The Mad Men days of wood-paneled conference rooms full of the same dozen chain-smoking creatives dreaming up every ad campaign are long gone.

I should know: I spent three years at one of the largest firms on Madison Ave, watching from within as it atrophied.

The thing about the centralized world of Madison Ave? It just wasn’t adaptable. One static group, no matter how creative, can’t possibly create inspired campaigns for Coach, Oscar Mayer, and Morgan Stanley all at once. Like a cab driver cruising all the way from the Bronx to south Brooklyn for fares, an agency stretching itself thin to deliver everything to everyone will inevitably fall short.

But compare that lone cabbie to a coordinated network of Uber drivers, elegantly matching with only the closest passengers, driving intelligently optimized routes. Which one gets more people where they’re going? Just as Uber has changed the transportation game by embracing the possibilities of a decentralized world, so too is creativity going through its own decentralization renaissance.

What does a “decentralization renaissance” look like? Instead of telling a rigid story scripted by a central agency, brands finally have the opportunity to tell their story dynamically, through a whole chorus of authentic, individualized voices. There are hundreds of thousands of passionate storytellers out there, regularly expressing themselves to dedicated audiences. Assembling the perfect crew to tell your story, whatever it may be, has never been easier. The key, though, is finding them.

A network of drivers relies on an “Uber” to turn thousands of moving pieces into an elegant, efficient whole. Young creative voices need their own centralized community—and technology—to help connect the right voices to the right projects. That’s what The Hub is for.

Right now, the creator world is a cacophony of voices. They’re distinct and authentic, yes, but they’re all clamoring to stand out. In that crowded world, the perfect creators for a particular campaign are like needles in a haystack. The Hub is like a metal detector, meticulously hand-selecting creators to meet any demand. For brands to branch out beyond one-dimensional campaigns and traditional channels, they’ll need that kind of curated access to just the right creators.

But while picking out good individual creators is important, envisioning how they can collaborate to create a beautiful whole is crucial. We started The Hub as a social network for creators first, before allowing brand partners. Creating an interconnected creative world is still our first priority; that’s why we launched our creator only mobile app, which connects photographers to models. By first helping our creators collaborate organically with each other, we’ll best be able to identify authentic webbing between our members to create perfect creator “supergroups” for larger brand campaigns.

We believe so strongly in campaigns created by teams of distinct creators because they have the potential for true grassroots success. Each creator appeals to their own audience differently, individually, and authentically. One of my favorite quotes is: “The greatest thing about music is that you can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.” One campaign conceived of by one boardroom is like the artist on the stage, our network of decentralized, passionate creators is the audience, all singing in unison for deeply authentic reasons.

Collaborative campaigns may be rare in the creative landscape right now, but that’s their strength. The digital landscape is only getting noisier, as everyone yells over each other to stand out from the crowd. Collaborative campaigns cut through that noise in a big way, because they’re so distinct from the social landscape’s usual me-me-me individualism.

Of course, as campaigns change, their execution will, too. The days of brands ‘prescribing’ and creators ‘following’ have to end for creators to tell brands’ stories authentically. For a campaign to succeed in 2018, brands and creators must be equal partners, trusting each other’s instincts as they shape their messaging collaboratively. Sharing creative control might be uncomfortable for brands at first, but the rewards are more than worth it.

For creatives, thriving in a decentralized world means finding ways to let your individuality shine through as part of a larger whole. That takes talented collaborators, a strong but adaptable personal vision, and connections to trustworthy networks of creatives and brands. The Hub helps the creators we work with develop those critical elements. We’ve built a platform to encourage collaboration and help creators give each other constructive feedback on their craft. Once they’re ready, we connect them with brands that let them fully explore their individuality, because today, anything less than full authenticity falls flat.

So while the creative world might be coming apart at the seams, we can’t wait to start stitching the pieces together into something beautiful.

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This article originally appeared on The H Hub’s blog.

About the author

James Cole is a brand and community builder. He's the CEO and founder of H Collective.

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