Creative Direction Creativity Advertising

How to make the most of the creative toy box

By Ian Haworth, Chief creative officer

November 30, 2016 | 5 min read

We live in an age where the creative’s toy box has never been bigger, bursting at the seams with innovations in technology like CGI and VR. So what does this mean for the advertising field and its creative players?

virtual reality

Essentially it means a creative’s only limit is their imagination and that anything is possible. But all the creative thinking in the world means nothing if your idea lacks the craft of storytelling in execution.

Taking a page from the gamer’s book

Having a creative toy box is pointless unless you rummage around inside and play with all the tools at your disposal. Look at the computer gaming industry – quite possibly the most creative sector out there. When it comes to creation and craft, gaming is sophisticated beyond all its peers – even Hollywood, which is often too prescriptive and gratuitous.

The level and quality of gaming is truly amazing and that boils down to one simple reason… its unrelenting belief in the craft, its ability to utilise it, bend it, shape it, contort it and sell it through a narrative beyond anyone’s imagination. Technology has elevated the power of the craft, which has now become premium in appeal. The design aesthetic in culture is also now increasingly important – transferred beautifully to the craft of gaming.

The craft of failure

Creatives in the ad world could take a page from their gaming cohorts’ book, but we must first open up our imaginations and let go of our fears. Our imaginations are our limits, so we need to get stuck into that creative toy box and give more room to the heart of our creativity. The next biggest obstacle to creativity is fear. Fear restricts the mind and creativity doesn’t stem from restriction, but from boundless freedom to think, to imagine, and to play. There must be a desire to push boundaries and innovate.

Unfortunately from a time when we are all still blossoming creatives, society and our education system teach us that failure is bad, unforgivable and irreversible. But the truth, and all creatives should know this, is that you can’t create something new, without failing first. As a creative, getting used to failing every now and then is not a bad thing. The trick is to not let that mistake knock your confidence, and that’s what the toy box is there for. If one tool doesn’t work, pick up another one and soldier on.

The craft of fun

There’s a reason the gaming industry has made surmountable leaps forward compared to the advertising world. That industry is really good at delving into the creative toy box. Their role is to entertain and engage so their starting point and psychology are poles apart to that in adland, which is first and foremost to inform and sell. The good news is that the ad world is finally starting to use the gamers’ springboard of emotional engagement to communicate its message across to audiences and get people to engage.

The passion for the experience, the fun in the craft is where the ad industry needs to step up its game. We need to start by asking ourselves: what’s the experience we’re creating? We are now becoming more experience driven than just communications driven. It’s about strumming the emotional chords in an audience and getting them to engage. All the necessary tools can be found in the creative toy box, which may as well be rendered useless unless you’re free to have fun with it.

The craft of storytelling

Perhaps the strongest thread that keeps the entire creative process from unravelling is the craft of storytelling. There is much skill required in execution. It may all start with the idea, but the human interaction, the emotional outcome relies on the craft of a robust narrative – be it funny, heart-wrenching, frightening; the emotion itself is irrelevant. The key is to make sure you use the creative tools at your disposal to tell a binding story that supports the influx of technology and always-on platforms.

If you look at the world of cinema, you’ll see a prime example of an industry that has monetised the CGI tool in the creative toy box. With so many Hollywood blockbusters forsaking a decent narrative for special effects and gizmos, I was recently blown away by the film ‘Captain Fantastic’, which perfectly surmises the power of storytelling. Without fancy tricks but a craft focused on narrative, simplicity, beautiful shooting, phenomenal casting, the film wanted for nothing. I was hooked from the word go and straight through to the credits. This movie was perfectly underpinned by the craft of being beautifully told, delivering a one-of-a-kind experience.

If I were asked to leave a creative toy box as my legacy, I would certainly make sure to fill it with the latest innovations in technology. But before entrusting it in the hands of others, I’d attach it with a caveat that reads: Handle with care, no tool can substitute the craft of a well told story.

Ian Haworth is executive creative director at Wunderman UK

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