We’re creative, yes, but how can we be creativer?

The world is divided into two kinds of people. The first kind is an extremely small but powerful group that creates content and controls the distribution. Let's call them Group A. The second kind is basically everyone else, or Group B, for simplicity.

The world is divided into two kinds of people. The first kind is an extremely small but powerful group that creates content and controls the distribution. Let’s call them Group A. The second kind is basically everyone else, or Group B, for simplicity.

Apparently, we are in the middle of some sort of digital revolution. The balance of power is shifting and Group B is gaining ground. Content is being created by anyone with a mobile phone, a personal computer, an Internet connection, a digital camera, a bunch of software, a credit card and some ambition. Apparently everyone on the planet is a frustrated creative type with something to say and is vying for attention. We now live in a gazillion-channel universe. But at least there’s choice.

In the meantime, Group A is fighting the war on another front, namely privacy legislation and intellectual property rights. It sucks to be rich and in complete control…especially when some kid with zits can outdraw someone like CNN’s Anderson Cooper in terms of audience numbers and doesn’t have to deal with huge salaries, trade unions or CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Blame MTV. The phenomenon known as the ‘MTV effect’ has shaped the mindset of Group B, which has in turn fueled the glut of online content. The business model that spawned MTV (the merging of TV, music and video) seems antiquated compared to the Web. The Web is MTV on steroids; it is the merging of basically everything. And, hey, it’s free.

But enough context. If you’re reading this article, you probably work for Group A. So let’s impress our bosses and crush the revolution – which means coming up with new ways of getting attention that can break through the clutter.

We can start with the traditional Web banner. But to really make a message stand out, it’s going to have to be bigger. Perhaps we need to create the SuperUberGiganticus BannerTM. It’s over a thousand times the size of current banners and would take users several hours to scroll from side to side. And when they roll over its content, the banner would expand to cover four city blocks, WOW! Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a better way to engage an audience…perhaps what we need is better ideas, not bigger ones.

Better ideas will win the war for attention, and attrition will take its toll on the ‘Here’s what happened to me today’ blogs of Group B. After all, who really wants to absorb all that crap? However, I do have an announcement for Group B: ATTENTION GROUP B MEMBERS: If you have a killer idea, then you can expect a substantial offer of compensation from Group A. Remember, Group A is always recruiting.

Here are three things to consider when being creative online:

1. There is no such thing as a best practice.

2. Never borrow. Steal. (Picasso said this. Really.)

3. Temet nosce.

‘Best-practices’ is a term that people who work in professional services like to insert into a conversation about, well, anything. It means absolutely nothing to creative people and has no place in the generation of the big idea. It’s difficult to imagine Picasso mulling over a style or genre with the notion that it somehow represents the best possible outcome. I feel stupid even writing that.

By definition a best practice can never be original. Of course, if you’re setting up an assembly line or a sweatshop, then perhaps you should consider a solution rooted in someone else’s ‘best practice.’ But if you’re trying to push an entire medium forward, the worst thing you can do is what everyone else is doing.

This leads into rule number two – ‘Never borrow. Steal.’ Stealing ideas is certainly not difficult or new, the real talent comes in picking the right things to steal. If you’re trying to do something different on the Web, then don’t look to the web for ideas. Read books. Watch movies. Go to galleries. Study nature. It worked for Picasso, perhaps the creativest guy ever, so it should have no trouble working for a new microsite about a cushioned shoe insert.

And finally, rule three – temet nosce. For the nerds among you, this was the sign hanging over the Oracle’s kitchen door in the Matrix. It means, ‘know thyself,’ but for our purposes it means, ‘understand your brand.’ Too often we create an online experience that is either way too elaborate, or not nearly elaborate enough for a specific brand.

At its core, rule three is about simplicity. Say only what you need to say, and don’t allow complexity of execution to overshadow the simplicity of the idea. Or, put another way, ‘Wow, I really can get chicken the way I want it!’

These three rules when properly and consistently applied will help us, the members of Group A, develop the mindset of Group B. The good news is that the Group B revolution can be short lived if we play our creative cards right. And that’s why we need to be even more creativer than ever as this new medium evolves.

Steve Mykolyn is VP design and interactive CD at Taxi in Toronto. He can be reached at mykolyn@taxi.ca.