I’m aware that titling this piece ‘the new creativity’ sounds a little excessively portentous. What on earth do I mean by that? Surely creativity — one of the most fundamental of human drivers, and one of the most necessary of business applications – is, to quote David Byrne, ‘same as it ever was’. How new can it get?
Well, certainly in one respect, nothing’s changed, despite appearances to the contrary. When I spoke at Ad:Tech New York last fall, I said that I had developed an irrational hatred of some key marketing jargon phrases that always made me want to scream very loudly and bang my head repeatedly against the wall. Those phrases included ‘the ever-increasing fragmentation of the media landscape’ and ‘the proliferation of consumer touchpoints’. Oh, and ‘the consumer is in control’.
It’s very easy to get carried away by the explosion of new communications channels, by the opportunity now to deliver content and commercial messages via blogs, podcasts, slo-mo ads on DVR playbacks that defy attempts to fast-forward, VOD, cellphones, the human forehead (available for rent by a number of enterprising volunteers), so on and so forth, and to forget that actually, it doesn’t matter what rivetingly forward-thinking and innovative media distribution method you choose, one thing still holds true: if it ain’t creative, it won’t find its mark. If your message and your content isn’t delivered in a form that is highly impactful, distinctive, memorable and compelling — in other words, if you haven’t been highly creative about how you get whatever it is you want people to watch/listen to/action across — then you’re dead. ‘Same as it ever was.’
So what do I mean by ‘the new creativity’? Well, simply this: that the increasing dominance of the interactive, online world in all areas of our lives is expanding the definition of creativity — what it is, what it does, what it achieves. This is a pretty big topic, so for the purposes of this piece I want to highlight here just four ways in which this is happening.
First of all, I would suggest that the interactive world is today the biggest source of creativity when it comes to reinventing the way that business is done. (It is also, incidentally, the biggest source of creativity when it comes to trying to reinvent the way that business is done and failing — but the sheer fact that it inspires people to try is testament to its mind- and horizon-expanding ability.) That’s creativity not only in the big-picture realm of technological innovation that enables revolutionary new business models (Google), and in revolutionary new approaches to selling advertising online (Google), and in rebuilding investor confidence in something involving the words ‘dot com’ (Google — well, maybe that one’s a little less certain right now..) But in plain old business staples like applying for jobs — as witness my current favorite at www.theneep.com/likecrispinporter/index.html. Creativity is and has always been a key competitive edge in every business sector you can possibly think of — but often not recognized as such and with no premium put on it. Now, we see a much better understanding of the fact that a creative approach to anything always gets you better results.
Secondly, the online world is the biggest force for democratization of creativity that exists. ‘User-generated content’ are three of the most beautiful words in the language when it comes to enabling the expression and articulation of the creativity that resides within all of us. OK, so some of that stuff on MySpace isn’t everyone’s idea of what creativity should be, but it’s making a lot of people very happy. Creativity, and the desire to be creative, is one of the most unifying human forces in existence. And today, not only can you create whatever you want and find an audience, be it art or ‘Brokeback Mountain’ spoofs (www.dailysixer.com for the most comprehensive collection), you can also share news, views, reviews and philosophies in a way that encourages people to think more about creativity and its power (as witness just one entertaining forum thread I followed on online business/social network www.soflow.com, sparked by James Dyson — he of the vacuum cleaners — making some distinctly uncomplimentary remarks about advertising agency creatives).