An effective marketer channels their inner creativity to help elevate the message of an organization, and for our money, Toby’s one of the best when it comes to this. We decided to dive deeper into his process by asking him how he approaches each project and, above all, creates results for our clients.
What is the key to balancing creativity with data and strategy?
It’s probably a bit of a cop out to say, but they are so interwoven to me that data, strategy and creative are really just different reflections on the same, funky coin.
We have more data at our disposal than any other time in history. That’s exciting to me. But the most exciting thing is taking those little truths the data shares and telling those truths in a more engaging, entertaining or thoughtful way. That’s good strategy and good creative, or as Harry McCann coined, “Truth Well Told.”
What does your creative process look like?
We talk a lot about discovering The One Thing, which is basically just remembering our North Star, a recurring theme that can’t be denied, or something so significant about a client or business that every creative execution must answer to it.
There is no perfect answer to the creative process, however. Some like whiteboards, noise and disruption, but I prefer starting with silence. I like to sit with whatever we’ve defined as our one thing and imagine myself as the consumer. What would move me? What would get me excited? Or at the very least, make me curious? Sometimes those ideas come right away and sometimes they percolate.
What previous experiences have helped you grow in your role as a creative strategist?
Having worked in more traditional account executive positions, as well as creative, writing and directing roles, has helped me experience the many facets of this business. Through it all, I’ve had fantastic mentors and peers who always challenged my way of thinking.
I’m also extremely impatient by nature. I want to know the point or the thesis. And while that doesn’t always make me the most popular committee member, I think that bit of agitation can help move work, strategies and good ideas forward.
What is the most exciting part about working with a new client?
One of the things we don’t often talk about is the immense amount of trust and responsibility we have been afforded when a client chooses to work with us. A client is trusting us with their livelihood, passions and dreams. That is amazingly humbling.
Every new client teaches us something about people, their industry and their story. Perhaps the most exciting thing for me is when we have conversations with clients and they begin to nod in agreement or say, “you get it.” That is really rewarding because it means we’ve done our homework and have been responsible with the trust they’ve placed in us.
If you had to pick a singular movie to describe you, what would you pick, and why?
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I was never as cool as Ferris, but I aspired to be. He was mischief without the mean—and the movie had a lot of heart to it.
I have always enjoyed flouting the system a bit and seeing what good trouble I can create. Problem is, I’m always computing the potential outcomes of said day off and reconsidering and adjusting. Hence, the creative strategist, I suppose.