Synergy's creative function for governments puts people first

17 March 2020 Consultancy.com.au

A clever symbiosis of creative talent and human behaviour has been branded creativeXpeople within Synergy Group. Jason Perelson, Creative Director at the firm, outlines how creativeXpeople formed within Synergy Group and why the philosophy is changing government communication. 

While there are advertising agencies operating within consultancies, and creative agencies that have migrated or been bought out, the creative function at Synergy Group underwent a slightly different route to formation. A small creative team, formerly branded Zoo, joined forces with Synergy about two years ago with a vision for a bold, new future. 

“We wanted to reinvent the way creativity is delivered to government, with a view to how best to do that as part of a consultancy,” explains Jason. “The average consultancy leverages having a creative agency, yet creative agencies don’t tend to leverage the consultancy.”

While the typical creative team – responsible for brand identity, graphic design, creative ideation and execution – receives a brief and then goes back to the client with a proposal or pitch, Synergy’s focus was on broadening the link between creative output and human behaviour.

Synergy's creative function for governments puts people first

“Creative solutions can be an enabler of behaviour change, both internally and externally,” says Jason. “We wanted to leverage Synergy’s expert analysis of behaviours, people, and work cultures alongside our own talents and skills in motivating and influencing behaviours to really understand how our creative could deliver an experience to our clients, their audiences, and everyday Australians.

“Together with the People & Organisational Development team, these two common expressions of behaviour, culture and the human experience has brought exponential strength to the creative,” notes Jason. “The team has flourished under the leadership of partners David Schmidtchen and Sally Dorsett.” 

People first

The blend of Synergy’s expertise in organisational strategy, psychology and research, means the creative output can be based on evidence, insights and deep collaboration. “We believe the best solutions are achieved when many minds, backgrounds and perspectives are brought together,” says Jason. 

“For example, when we are engaged to devise an internal change management campaign, we’ll draw on our broader team’s expertise in data, auditing, discovery and academic rigour to provide a depth of knowledge to mapping behaviours, as well as to think far deeper about the problem, which adds layers to our solution.” 

“Creative solutions aren’t purely the bastion of ‘creatives’; they come from bringing in the right people, and right expertise, and we are a catalyst to that experience. It’s this symbiosis of the two facets of people and creative that keeps us focused on helping people feel ‘changed’, for the better, rather than merely ‘managed’. Strategy comes to nothing if human behaviour does not change, so we take ideas to action.”

“The average consultancy leverages having a creative agency, yet creative agencies don’t tend to leverage the consultancy.”

It doesn’t have to be perfect

Another driving philosophy is that any idea, creative execution or proposed action doesn’t need to be ‘complete’ to be shared with the client. “Once we have some evidence and analysis – an understanding of what is driving behaviour – we blend it with raw, wild creative ideas,” explains Jason. “There are no stupid ideas.” 

While it can be a cultural shift for some government departments (and creatives) to engage during the ideation phase, co-creation delivers better results and forges a collaborative partnership. 

“We work with our clients and even go so far as to show them the things we don’t like. It helps them see how our ideas evolve, how we problem solve and link evidence to solutions. It may be uncomfortable given it’s not the norm, but we’re huge champions of maintaining our difference – and that includes all our silliness too.” 

Respecting the floral print and the suit

When Jason and the creative team first arrived at Synergy, there was a new balance to be found. “We just don’t think like everyone else! I’m the floral print and kooky socks amongst the suits,” laughs Jason. “But you soon realise you’re not the smartest in the room; particularly when surrounded by PhDs and MBAs. Yet we learn from each other, bounce off each other – and the energy and culture of Synergy is the perfect bold blend to inject creative into.”

It was a time of adaptation for everyone, and the influence on one another has strengthened Synergy’s capacity to deliver end-to-end solutions. “We’re working together to solve problems by sharing our different perspectives,” says Jason. “We are a unique blend of insights, academia, curiosity and imagination.”


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