Company Culture Building Block #2: Creativity

April 26, 2022 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Albert Einstein called creativity “intelligence having fun.” He also claimed that creativity is “contagious,” which it is. Most beautifully, Einstein said “creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else has ever thought.” As leaders in advertising and marketing, that’s what we’re called to do. For ourselves and most certainly for the benefit of our clients. It’s easy to understand the importance of creativity for the latter. But too often, we overlook the crucial role creativity plays in the internal mechanism that makes our agencies run. Last month, we looked at safety as the first building block for any great company culture. In this post, we’re looking at creativity and the explosive potential it makes possible.

Sparks can come from anywhere.

There are few things in the world of advertising more exhilarating than coming up with a great idea. Singles and doubles feel good. The occasional triple will have you beaming for a week. But when lightning strikes? When you come up with that career, or agency-defining grand slam “big idea”? There’s nothing better or more validating. So why is it in the ad agency business (and so often to our extreme detriment), do we relegate “big ideas” and the “creative” exclusively to those in the creative department? That’s all kinds of wrong. It’s understandable, but wrong.

Clearly, in every company’s division of labor, creative thinking should come from the creative department. But for companies with great cultures (and challenger brands especially), creative thinking doesn’t stop at the edge of the creative department. That’s the unlocking move that sets them apart.

In an empowered culture, great ideas can – and should – come from anywhere.

You hire great people in media. You hire great people in account service. In marketing. In accounting. Every person on your team is talented and capable of smart thinking or you wouldn’t have hired them. Creativity can come from every corner of your company. But before it does, there’s one thing you have to understand. Often, creative thinking only happens when first, permission is granted.

The secret of success hiding in plain sight.

A recent McKinsey study of nearly 900 executives from around the country shows that companies focusing on purpose, analytics, and creativity are driving 2.7 times more revenue growth than their peers. That really shouldn’t come as any huge surprise. Purpose is another foundational element for building great company culture that we’ll write about in a future post in this series. As for analytics, as management guru Peter Drucker was fond of saying, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” And if you’re read this far, you’ve most likely gathered we believe creativity is the engine that drives the machine.

But here’s what is truly shocking about the study. With results this demonstrative (2.7x growth), only seven percent of the companies polled are delivering on the creativity, analytics, and purpose McKinsey calls “the growth triple play.” We can’t say for sure why that is regarding purpose and analytics. But here’s a little insight that may explain a lack of creativity. Leaders need to give their teams permission to think that way.

The greatest gift you can give your company culture.

For many reading this, it may seem ludicrous that you’d need to give your employees permission to think creatively. But having spent more than 30 years working in and around advertising agencies, design firms, digital studios, media companies, and the like, I can tell you it’s necessary. For some leaders, that permission starts with changing up their own perspective regarding who they believe can deliver creative thinking. For all of us, great company cultures can’t emerge until everyone on your team is both inspired and encouraged to generate ideas on a regular basis. To push past what’s expected. To “think different” as Apple and Chiat/Day so brilliantly illustrated in this classic spot.

Successful challenger brand cultures have to be infused with creativity at every level.

To elevate the agency, the quality of the work and the results for the client. By fostering and championing creativity, leaders create an environment where ideas can incubate. Where every idea on the spectrum between unlikely and impossible can be considered and tried. And most of all, where people have the freedom to fail and try again without the fear of criticism, losing ground, or getting fired.

First, place the oxygen mask on yourself.

You’ve probably heard the adage, “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” So often companies that work in advertising and marketing are so focused on the outward creative output for their clients, they forget about themselves. That’s an oversight that needs immediate attention. The same transformative creative magic that pushes your clients forward can do the same for your team and your culture when applied internally. Just imagine how empowering it would be for your team to share ownership for creatively solving the challenges you face.

Great company cultures only work when there’s collective stewardship. No, not every idea will be great. But when are they ever? Give every member of your team a push. Give them the green light to come up with inspired solutions and you’ll be shocked how often they do. By opening up the aperture to everyone, you add additional perspectives. Additional life experiences. Special, unique ways of looking at the world. No company ever failed because it had too many great ideas. Creativity is rocket fuel. Your permission is the ignition.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president and CEO at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising, and marketing, leadership, culture, and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

ad agencyadvertisingadvertising agencyAlbert Einsteinapplechallenger brandchallenger brand marketingchallenger brandingchallenger brandscompany culturecreativitydesign firmdigital studioFacebook MessengerMcKinseyMike SullivanPeter DruckerRocket fuelThe Voice of The UnderdogThink Differenttop Dallas ad agency

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.