The future of creativity

With the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity looming on the calendar, the June 2011 issue of strategy takes a look at where we are and where we're headed.

The ad biz is full of enigmas and conundrums. Such as why agencies, whose day job is to build brands, often neglect their own and also over-index on crappy websites. Or what’s behind Steve Mykolyn’s fascination with the Snuggie?
And then there are the two solitudes that comprise the remit of the marketer. The marketing department’s bottom line responsibility is exactly that – profitability. There is a science to it, and if formulas are followed, sales should result. But then it starts to get further away from the math, into areas that require skills closer to the arts than science.
Along that path, whether it’s the ability to brilliantly link random observations into killer insights or a nifty new tagline, creativity is a weapon. Now that uber creativity – and its ability to earn media – can also trump big gun media spending, the arts side is gaining on science. The little ideas suddenly have scale, and can generate the big payback.
As new areas of advertising, such as social media marketing, come onstream, and with brands involved in all manner of content creation, creativity is a bigger piece of more solutions. And as campaigns stray farther from traditional advertising, adding more layers to marketing programs – like experience design – there are new people around the table. The art and copy guys are no longer the lone “creatives,” everyone is. Design is another new engine driving brands, and getting it right at every step is key.
This brings us to the growing importance of honing creativity in this more collaborative multi-discipline environment – amid urgency to deploy more of it across more areas of the business, often with less time and resources.  All of this requires new ways of working, and a very different brainstorming protocol.
Ironically, industries that aren’t inherently creative-centric likely spend more time getting that right. So, as the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity looms on the calendar, strategy rounded up some of Canada’s top ad execs/Cannes vets to discuss the future of creativity in Canadian advertising, share some best practices, and explore how to up a company’s game in this space.  We also get a bead on where Canada’s creativity quotient ranks on the global stage – what we do well, and where we need some remedial ideation therapy.
Which brings us to another quirk of the adworld: award-winning ideas have an actual ROI beyond packing bonus equity into a brand and earning free media freight. Like an Oscar, Lions add to marquee value, attracting attention from would-be partners, clients, talent and, in some cases, new owners.  So in a creative catch-22, Canada needs to show well to attract the requisite talent.
Since time was also cited as a barrier to reaching full creative potential, it’s ironic that what’s often needed is more time to spend on retooling ways and means to maximize creativity across teams – or even just better coordination in some cases.
Bottom line, cultivating creativity, developing skills and carving out blue-sky time is a corner office responsibility. In his Forum column this issue, gutsy marketer turned agency president Geoff Craig talks about the kind of leadership required to instill a fierce creativity-demanding attitude within an organization. While the secret sauce is likely a little more complex than admonishing agencies to “use a sharp stick” to provoke audiences, taking a stand, and figuring out ways to harness the ideas of all the new players at the table, may indeed require it.
If you do that, starting with the core product premise right through to the basket and beyond, maybe you’ll go beyond share of mind to that special place brands like Apple and Dove have gone – share of heart.

Cheers, mm
Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant