Why do we need an MBA for the Creative Industries?

By: MT Rainey, Executive Chairman of digital agency TH_NK and Vice-Chair of Creative Skillset, tells us why, at the launch of the Executive MBA for the Creative Industries at BAFTA.

The Creative Economy 

MT RaineyThis week we learned from the DCMS that the UK Creative Industries now contribute over £84 billion to the UK economy and grew by 8.9% last year, twice as fast as the economy as a whole. That’s nearly £10 million an hour – I thought – as I stood in the sacred halls of BAFTA, looking around the room at a lot of very valuable time. 

So the sceptic among us might be forgiven for asking “why on earth do we need a new MBA for the Creative Industries – we seem to be doing lots of things right already?” Well of course that’s true, and of course it's also exactly the reason why we need to capture the brilliance of our industries, and their many success stories, and lock in the future for the next generation of leaders.

Because it’s also true that the forces and challenges shaping our industries are greater than they’ve ever been before; our routes to market aren’t simple, stable, predictable or guaranteed. Global competition, digital technology and the perennial question of how people will discover, consume, value and ultimately pay for our creative content, vexes all of us, whether we’re in advertising, publishing, film, music, television, fashion or VFX.  The business end of our businesses are all very busy these days.

When the 'big idea' was king

My own career in advertising flourished in the days when the big idea was king and the phrase Creative MBA would have been considered an oxymoron.

But in fact the point of difference when we launched our agency – just another four names above a door in Newman St – was a business idea – that clients should pay for the ideas, for the creative, NOT a commission on the media spend. Radical at the time – but it was clear to us that media 'planning and buying' was rapidly separating from the creative end of the advertising business and that ad agencies were saddled with the anachronistic business model of media commissions.

We’d essentially been giving the ideas away for free. And we had to figure out a way to charge for them. Doesn’t that sound familiar now?

This change has now come full circle 20 years later as powerful and highly successful media businesses are senior partners in the client equation adding creative and production services which directly compete with the ad agencies. That shift alone would be worth an MBA case history. And shifts like this are happening everywhere in our industries.

Managing the tension 

MT RaineyOf course creativity is a constant, big ideas are always lodestars and talent is treasure – that never changes – but everything else does and everything else will. And I don’t believe big data is the antithesis of big ideas – or that commercial success comes at the expense of creativity – that’s the unique tension of our industries and managing that tension has always been something we’re particularly good at here in the UK.

But I do think creative businesses often struggle with growth and scale, and in the headwinds of technological change, this is a real challenge for our future leaders. This is why the new Executive MBA for the Creative Industries is so important. We need a special kind of business leader to navigate the frankly much trickier waters ahead, beyond start-up success to sustainability, scale up and competing on the global stage.

The course 

So not only has this new MBA been designed specially for our industries, but it’s also ideal for the frazzled, modern, working executive. It’s mostly delivered online, with some fantastic interactive content; three residential weeks at Ashridge – not so much a campus as a castle – and one fantastic week in the US. All of us involved in shaping the course wish we could have done it. For most of us I fear it’s too late. But for many of you and the people you serve and employ I think it comes absolutely just in time.

Find out more about the Executive MBA for the Creative Industries here.

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