The Mad Men era, made up largely of Creatives with a capital C who thought of a breakthrough brand tagline by lunchtime and spent the rest of the day with a glass of whisky in hand, is a dim and distant, albeit fond for many, memory.
Today, the majority of the far broader marcomms industry all have to be ‘creative’, but creatives with a small c – coming up day to day with new approaches, ideas and solutions, whether media strategies, visual identities, brand insight, or different ways of working with a client or a team. I like Arthur Koestler’s definition from 1964 that creativity is the blending of two previously unconnected things to form something new. It’s not always a big ‘aha’ moment but part of the everyday decisions you make at work.
By the way, we still need those knock-out lines and magical moments… but my argument is that not only Creatives can be creative. So, whilst some of us feel shy about claiming to ‘be creative’, we must recognise the value of smaller creative moments and think of creativity as a process that we can all learn and practice. If you start to think of yourself as a creative, you are more likely to engage in boosting your own creativity. And like most other skills, creativity requires influence and persistence.
“Outspiration” is the latest phrase to describe the value of bringing the outside in, as sources of inspiration. With the wealth of content produced today, we are all rushing to read masses of industry news and keep up with the latest tech innovations. But try also removing yourself, and walk, run, ruminate even to allow your subconscious to come up with perhaps fresher ideas. It’s not quite ‘stealing with pride’ but there is inspiration to be found everywhere. Without pandering to trend, I find walking meetings a really helpful way to talk things out and think things through.
And persistence is vital. Whilst the archetype of the Creative genius lends people to try and come up with one killer idea, thinking of multiple ideas can be more productive (and less frustrating) approach. And we are lucky that technology enhances creativity – it expands our creative toolbox and our horizons of how we can realise our creative ideas. Plus, automating processes means we all have more time to be creative. A defining question of the creativity vs. technology discussion is whether technology can supersede human creativity. Last year at Cannes, The Next Rembrandt (JWT’s work for ING) used AI to paint ‘new’ Rembrandt’s, challenging us to think whether a machine could be a better artist, the purest form of Creative, than a human.
So, what does it mean to be a creative business in the 21st century? WPP have always been a creative business but we have redefined what that encompasses. Technology and data are at our core - via our audience [m]platform, our unrivalled data assets and our partnerships with leading tech companies - and give our people the tools they need to boost their creativity.
And to turbo boost that we are commitment to diversity; in line with Koestler’s definition, we blend together WPP’s agencies and talent - different creative minds from across the world, capabilities, ways of thinking and ways of working. I’m most excited when I’m in a room of ‘previously unconnected’ people from our different agencies around the world, who come together to solve problems for our clients. A world of Creatives and creatives, collaborating. So, find your own creative toolbox, and confidently get creating.
Lindsay Pattison is WPP's chief transformation officer, and a regular contributor to The Drum.