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Better Together: Shaking Up Creative Agency Hierarchy

How we work has moved on in so many ways. Yet there’s been very little shake up of the traditional creative agency hierarchy.

But in an organisation typically full of highly creative individuals, operating within a rigid hierarchical structure can create more problems than it solves. Some of our team have experienced this first hand in previous roles. At Fiasco, with a smaller team of 16, we encourage greater autonomy and involvement regardless of level. Here, we take a deeper look into the creative agency hierarchy and speak to our team about some of their own experiences. 

Photograph of team in the studio

In agency-land the typical preset involves: creative team, client services team, website developers, copywriters, marketing executives and more. Usually headed up by the Managing Director and Creative Director. Within the creative team itself you can find additional layers of seniority. But this kind of creative agency hierarchy fails to take into account that creative practices so often rely on a collaborative work environment that encourages a free-flow of ideas. 

Sometimes the complexity of a brief demands diversity.

Creativity is more likely to occur when people of different disciplines, backgrounds, and areas of expertise openly share their thinking. At Fiasco we openly encourage people of all levels to actively participate in the creative process. 

Back when I was a junior designer I worked with a senior team member who repeatedly reinforced the idea that my role as junior was just to sit and listen. To be quiet and ask less questions. It was such an un-nurturing environment for me to be in creatively. “ – says Julia, Senior Designer. 

Photo of Last Friday of the Month in the Fiasco studio

It’s not just within the creative team that status can impede the exchange of ideas.

Those outside a typically ‘creative’ role may also feel limited. Emphasis is rarely placed on those who work in client services and their ability to shape the project creatively. But breaking down predefined ideas of job roles can help to reignite team collaboration: 

Having studied illustration at university and dabbled in a little freelance, I feel like I have a deep understanding of the creative process and ability to emphasise with the creative team. In a small team like ours, getting a fresh perspective and input from everyone is crucial. So I always feel confident providing my thoughts and feel that they are genuinely valued. My role extends far beyond liaising with clients and creatives. Project management is so much more than that. Only when we work together do we create our best work.” – says Marj, Project Manager.

Photograph of Last Friday of the Month

Job roles can be really quite useful. Most organisations have some kind of structure. It helps to manage workflow, studio process and output. Plus, it isn’t always feasible to do away with hierarchy altogether as an agency becomes bigger.

Account Director Hayley, adds:  “When introducing the team to new and prospective clients, it can be helpful to share the team’s job roles and responsibilities. It helps to outline the experience and the perspective that individuals will be able to bring to the project. 

Internally, striking a balance between having clearly defined job roles and knowing where there are opportunities for people to flex, allows us to get the best from our team. We’re fortunate enough to have a team of multi-disciplinary creatives and creative thinkers. So flexibility within a role is important, and allows us to be truly collaborative.

Organisational structure and a collaborative workplace don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

The key here is in developing an ecosystem where job roles are utilised in a helpful way. Whilst still building an open culture where creativity is given room to grow.

Photograph of Last Friday of the Month

At Fiasco we host a ‘Last Friday of the Month’ lunch. Everybody has time to show and tell a project they’ve been working on. It’s all about promoting inclusivity. But this has to be an active pursuit, rather than a hollow HR tactic. Carve out space for junior people to speak up and be heard. For those not in the inner creative circle to have their say too.

At Fiasco, we work in the studio as one, with mutual respect for one another. And our work’s all the better for it. 

We bring together brand and digital to create the extraordinary. If you’d like to speak to us about a future project or collaboration, drop us a line here.