A leap into the unknown is what true creativity needs. All creatives will tell you that. Unpredictable, risky, raw - this is what creativity at its best looks like. Or does it? At a time when advertising is being mapped, measured and analysed, there is a role for data, tech, and tools in this conversation.
In this challenging period in our industry, and in our world — do we need to remind ourselves of some of the rules of advertising and not just depend on the power of raw creativity? The Drum associate editor Sonoo Singh moderated a round table of the judging panel from The Chip Shop Awards on whether advertising needs rules or if we need to break them.
Treading the fine line of creativity or beating it out the park
The art of creativity is to hit the ball just outside the line, like in tennis, so that everyone thinks that it's inside the line, says The School of Communication Arts’ dean, Marc Lewis.
“The role of creativity for me is to try and get away with it. To try and do the stuff that makes others say you can't do that, that's breaking the rules. Anytime I've seen advertising that blatantly broke the rules, that wonder if it's in or out of the line, those are the ones that stand out to me. That's why we need rules in advertising, so we can break them.”
It seems to be that the breaking of the rules doesn’t happen as much these days. Advertising at the moment is quite uninspiring, sometimes boring. Tamara Gillan, chief executive officer and founder of Cherry London says that we need to break the rules and push on it.
“There is so much fear from within brands and agencies for the protection of everything, that we aren't breaking rules’” she explains. “We aren't pushing boundaries and it's getting worse.
“We need to be brave, both client and the agency. Do it collaboratively, because if you’re not doing it together, you're not going to get to the right atmosphere everyone buys into. To be brave you need to do it with conviction.”
Who can break the rules and who can set them?
There is a lack of ambition from the agency/creative community to break the rules, claims Reuben Webb, chief creative officer at Stein IAS.
“But there are so many rules that it weighs you down. If clients did come to agencies and say solve a business problem, but play by your own rules, we would see a lot greater creativity out there.
“I'm a great believer in that there are wonderful answers that are creative. Someone gets a rule book somewhere and there are layers upon layers of rule books. If agencies were setting rules, we would see some fabulous creation.”
But where does the ownership of the rules lie? John Tracey, executive creative director at Proximity London believes that agencies have lost their confidence around selling the idea, as well as being experts in creativity. “They’ve lost their way in being experts in getting people to react to their work. That's why some of the current work is suffering. There are so many media channels to fill.”
Time and time again are agencies being told that they lead the creativity but at the end of the day, it’s the media agencies that are dictating the creative. “There is not enough trust in the creative agencies, being the owner of their own creativity.”
Amy Keane, global head of innovation at Starcom adds that ownership is the problem, creative agencies have increasingly become reluctant to integrate with media agencies.
Bring on the new creative revolution
According to Lewis, the first creative disruption of the 60s quickly followed on by a second in the 80s, is on the horizon once again. Angry people who are pissed off and trying to change the establishment.
“I feel like we're now at a moment where we're starting to get angry again with society, with things like racist Brexit etc, there's an undercurrent, a generation that is saying fuck you to the establishment and they're working out how to reinvent stuff.
“I'm excited about the imminent future of our advertising, music, fashion because I see a generation coming in that are going fuck you to the older generations, I'm going to make it my way.”
New generations are demanding a lot from agencies and brands, but are we really seeing this resurgence in creativity?
Dipesh Mistry, senior creative and art director of Brave says that unless you show your true self, they won’t buy it. “We need to be more authentic or they don't care.” Jodie Wightman, creative director at Together Design adds that young people are saying “fuck you” to advertising. “They want to make their own decisions as they are more informed, they don't need an ad to tell them what they’re into. It's a little bit harder now to sway with them.”
Innovation or creativity?
Could social platforms potentially have affected creativity negatively? There are so many rules on platforms Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc that breaking the morale, the lines creativity could have a negative impact.
Innovation has made agencies chase technology, says Keane. “People chase the new tech, so inevitably, it's not founded innovative ideas. It's founded on the next shiny thing.”
David Norris, creative strategy UK lead of Snap, and the chair of The Drum Chip Shop Awards says that when looking for inspiration, the behaviours of their users is the starting point as they are the ones using lenses to twist themselves and sculpt their own work.
“That’s a huge opportunity for brands to partner,” he says. “However, attention has never been lower. It's so hard to get someone's attention. There is the opportunity to get it, take Netflix for example, but getting the craft, execution and relevance of it right is tricky
“Of course, it needs to have value and make people feel something, that still holds true, it's just how you do it has changed. That's the challenge between the media/creative world because the communications landscape has become so much more complex.
“I'd happily reach out to new technology and innovation, but we never give it to a brand to do it first. We always do it first organically so that the behaviour is there for the users to then enable creative/media agencies to use afterwards.”
Lee Trott, senior copywriter at Oliver concludes that creativity and innovation trip people up.
“It's great to be artistic, everyone thinks innovation has to be technology but what we're really talking about is ingenuity. Mohammed Ali always said ‘To be great you must believe you are the best’.
“If you find a way to do whatever you do in a better way than before, using something ingenious, that counts as creativity, not innovation. Whatever it is, even the simplest bits of tech, try and think when you're watching those videos that pop up on Facebook or YouTube, something so simple that it blows your mind that you didn't think of it.”
Sponsors of these awards are One Minute Briefs, Stein IAS and Winmo.