Is creativity in crisis? The Drum Rumble with McCann London, AMV BBDO and Adobe Stock

Creativity is in crisis – as it always has been, and always should be, according to AMV BBDO creative partner Nick Hulley.

He believes that creativity is constantly in conflict with technology, with each new tech advancement meaning creatives must run to catch up, a view also shared by McCann London’s executive creative director Sanjiv Mistry.

They were speaking at The Drum’s Creative Rumble in partnership with Adobe Stock alongside McCann London’s head of strategy Karen Crum and AMV creative partner Nadja Lossgott.

The rumble, moderated by The Drum’s associate editor Sonoo Singh on Wednesday, July 24, saw each argue for the value of creativity and question how deep the crisis goes – with, for example, the lowest levels of effectiveness recorded in 24 years at this year’s Cannes festival.

It was followed by a panel discussion to explore whether the fundamental rules of advertising are broken with Alex Hayward, Adobe’s director strategic development, CCE EMEA.

Mistry said the short average tenure of chief marketing officers of around 18 months brought about short-termism. He said: “There’s a focus on immediate results: hardworking work that works immediately, which maybe potentially from a creative’s point of view is ‘anti-creativity.”

His philosophy is that as long as that work still stood for something people could associate with a brand “year after year, even decade after decade” that long-term effectiveness could still happen.

For Crum, there has been perhaps an over-focus on purpose at the expense of entertainment. “A lot of advertising has gone very political, very aspirational and very logical,” she said. “It’s in crisis because culturally we’ve gone one way, but we’ll come back. The fight is to make advertising interesting, exciting and moving.”

Yet creating work for social good can and does have a part in today’s advertising play. Lossgott cited the #Bloodnormal campaign she and Hulley created for Bodyform/Libresse that normalises periods.

“Purpose works really well when it’s not cynical,” she said. “We knew that 56% of girls would rather be bullied at school than talk to their parents about periods. When purpose is authentic and done for a reason it is amazing. If we can all be good humans then there shouldn’t be a cynicism about purpose in advertising. A better way of looking at it is how do you reinvent it every time?

“Advertising at its best has always been entertaining whether it’s poignant and sad or makes you laugh and talk about it with your friends for the next three hours. We’ve got to adapt with the data and social – there are so many different avenues to go into and so many different target audiences. It’s keeping up with everything rather than revolution.”

Not quite so, said Mistry. “It’s inherent to the creative process to always talk about revolution and creativity – that’s no different today to 30 years ago. The essence of creativity is agitated for revolution.

“There is a massive, massive change. It’s different tech emerging every day that we need to keep up with - new opportunities to display our creativity. Tech surges ahead and then creative industry tries to catch up and pass it.”

However, marketers and their agencies must be cautious with how they approach the new and the next – not simply to “be the first”, said Hulley. “The tech is evolving and changing every day, there’s something new and wonderful. But if you’ve got an amazing drone or an AR thing and you dig into it – if there’s no insight, no idea behind that then all you’re doing is using a drone.

“For us as creatives, it’s not just realising that the pace of change is constant and hard to keep up with, it’s also remembering to step back.”

Lossgott amplified. “Virtual reality is a pretty small audience at the moment – but if you’re talking to the right people then it’s a pretty big audience. It has creativity in its own right to be amazing and immersive. There’s often an obsession to do a clever new thing, but it comes down to strategy: is the fancy new thing the right thing?”

Hayward is more positive. “I truly believe that we are in a golden age of creativity,” he said, suggesting that “this idea that it is creativity versus technology is wrong”. This, particularly with the tools that today’s agencies and marketers have at their fingertips. Technology can both enhance and challenge the boundaries of creativity – and creativity is fundamental if a brand wants to cut through.

As Lossgott said: “Creativity is the last advantage we have.”

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