Creative Insights: Five by Five Global's Matt Batten on advertising, not art

By Ruby Derrick | 9 February 2024

Creative Insights is an AdNews series investigating and uncovering the secrets of the creative side of advertising.

Matt Batten: executive creative director at Five by Five Global

How did you fall into the industry? Was it deliberate or a misstep?

Despite seeing a 60 Minutes story on famous Aussie ads in the 80s and thinking it looked like a cool job, I never considered advertising as a career. After university, I had a bizarre job painting artwork on the walls of rich people’s homes. When I looked for other ‘creative’ and ‘artist’ opportunities, the job ads in the newspaper all specified knowledge in some Mac programs (long since outdated).

So, I did some courses and applied for jobs. The day before enacting my backup plan of joining the Federal Police Force (as a pathway to eventually becoming a globe-trotting spy), I got a job where I was laying out retail ads on a computer and suddenly realised, “Oh, I’m in advertising now.” I should have been a spy.

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

This is advertising. It’s not art. We must always be mindful and respectful of the objectives of each piece of marketing, the purpose it serves, the brand it fulfils, and the client who needs it. That’s not to say we don’t apply creativity. But to fulfil each specific brief, we need to apply the right amount and type of creativity as a method for achieving those objectives. That means, sometimes it might barely be considered creative in any sense (meh), and other (more effective) times it’s something wildly imaginative that compels a target audience to do what we want, so the client brand gets what they need. This is the strategy of creativity.

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?

Pick one. Democratisation. Media fragmentation. Economic pressure. Consumer apathy. Cognitive dissonance. Oversaturation. Wash-rinse-repeat marketing strategies. Unrealistic expectations. Dunning-Kruger. All the above make for a never-ending series of hurdles that continue to make the business of creative marketing more challenging year-by-year.

It’s easier to pinpoint the opposite: the biggest advantage for creatives is a client who trusts the marketing expertise of their agency with the combined knowledge-base and skillset of the whole agency team, so the client doesn’t just say they’re open to creative ideas, they actually recognise the agency knows what they’re doing and will accept the confident recommendation of a wild idea that still strategically aims for the objective. Because after all, it’s the agency’s reputation on the line too.

Do you wear the black t-shirt uniform or are you a nonconformist?

Sometimes I wear a white T-shirt, sometimes grey. Monochromatic decisions are easier.

Can commercial creativity only take place in a room full of people in black T-shirts?

No. Sometimes it happens in a room full of white or grey T-shirts. Because it’s not about the T-shirts. It’s about being in a room full of people. Commercial creativity struggles to happen remotely over a videocall. A university study showed problem-solving and decision-making (two cornerstones of commercial creativity) are seven times faster when people discuss face-to-face than when communicating digitally. Face-to-face persuasion is 34 times more likely to be successful compared to text-based communications, and internally pitching even the inkling of an idea relies on persuasion. Only 7% of human communication is derived from the words, which means we’re losing up to 93% of meaning and understanding when we’re not in a room together, particularly when communicating nebulous concepts or complex strategic solutions. And the research goes on.

What was the latest campaign that you worked on that you really enjoyed?

It’s actually two of the integrated campaigns Five by Five Global has baking in the oven right now. I’m only a few months into my role at Five by Five and being involved in the development of work (and I’m not about to name work from my last agency), so you’ll just have to watch this space.

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