Viacom’s creative legacy was the inspiration for Twenty-First Century Design at Viacom, an exhibit recently installed at 1515 Broadway. To talk more about this vital relationship between business and creativity and what it means to Viacom, V is sharing the second part of a conversation with Cheryl Family, Viacom Catalyst’s SVP of Brand Strategy + Creative.
V: What role does creativity play in building a successful business?
Cheryl Family: I think you have to be clear about what creativity means to your brand. When we say creativity, we mean the unexpected and doing things people haven’t seen before. Really break new ground. For example, when MTV is promoting the MTV Video Music Awards, it needs to feel completely different each year. You want to give people something that makes them say, “Wow, that’s freaking cool.”
How does that translate into a successful business? For Viacom, if you look across all the brands, creativity is baked into each network’s DNA. It’s always about hiring great people, setting them free within the boundaries and the objectives of what they have to do, and saying, “How can we do this in some new and unexpected way and really blow people’s minds?” That approach comes through in our content and shows in the impact it has with audiences.
Everyone can be creative in their role – creativity is not just about “creatives” – it’s for everyone.
V: Most people see business goals and creative exploration as very separate operations. How is Viacom’s approach to these functions unique?
CF: When you’re trying to push the creative and reach a vibrant, complex audience, business goals and creative goals are bound closely together. We have to know what we want to do and what kind of impact we want to make. The key is starting with well-crafted objectives.
V: What does it mean to be “creative first”?
CF: Everyone can be creative in their role – creativity is not just about “creatives” – it’s for everyone. If you’re saying you’re a creative-led company, you have to be the kind of place that creative people want to work. You have to be bringing in the best talent, giving them the chance to do what they do best and fostering their work with the tools and research they’ll need in order to be successful.
V: How do you see Viacom giving creatives room to be “free”? Why is that important?
CF: From my experience, a lot of decision makers’ approach to the creative is: “Here are the objectives and the parameters, now knock my socks off. Show me something that’s just killer.” And, of course, sometimes there have to be tweaks or things need to be massaged to get to that place where they work, but on its best day, that’s the process. Hiring great people, trusting in their ability and letting them make great work. If you look at the history of the brands across Viacom, that’s been the backbone of how they built their businesses.
If you missed Part I of our interview with Cheryl, catch-up here.