While marketers may be swimming in seas of data, they should never lose sight of the power of creativity and basic human instincts, writes Sharon Murphy.
I’m not sure if it’s because we now have a multitude of social platforms at our disposal making this occurrence more visible or whether we are all so in tune with, dare I say it, the zeitgeist, that I am seeing campaigns that are pretty much replicas of those that have gone before them. It is not sector, nor category specific, but it should be making us all feel more than a little uncomfortable. I doubt anyone intentionally sets out to produce a copycat version of a previously implemented campaign – hardly the thing that would get you out of bed on a Monday morning, but it is an issue that we should all do our very best to avoid.
Due to technological advances, we have never had as many planning and analytical tools to enable our curiosity and the discovery of insights. There is a danger however that as these tools grow in sophistication and become more universally deployed, more and more brands risk ending up with the same ideas. As developers of ideas, the onus is on agency land to do all we can to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Living in Dog Years
It is the case that brands operate within the same context and cultural norms, so it stands to reason that similar conclusions will be drawn. We swim in a sea of data that comes with its own health warning, which makes the task of interrogating it to arrive at distinctive work, an increasingly challenging one.
While the brilliant skills of planners can bear real fruit, now that we are all living and working in dog years, achieving in one year what would have previously taken years, the level of creative output is showing no signs of slowing down and, if anything, the rate of change is further accelerating. This means it requires an even greater breadth of resource to isolate and harness the intersection zone between brand, consumer and culture. Sure, we can validate the data in a myriad of ways now, but it requires serious skill to find a way forward on the lesser trodden paths to distinctive work.
“As the use of data informs what we watch, listen to, consume and more, we need to stay true to the creative filter that each person has within them, our own humanity.” ANGELA DORGAN, FIRST MUSIC
Innovation, by its very nature, is a state of evolution whereby new ideas are in many ways, whether consciously or unconsciously, informed and influenced by those that came before and there is a justice to this system that makes it acceptable. The trouble arises though when there is no effort to sufficiently evolve the ideas.
Therefore, creativity needs to continue to be the stand out feature of the agency of the future. Our planning and analytical capabilities will become more advanced and the level of precision will intensify in the years ahead. Our ability to mine the data to forensic levels will enhance the planning capability, but as cultural shifts operate at a macro level, you would have to ask the question, how likely is it that consumer insights will expand to such an extent to broaden the scope and be the distinguishing feature on our quest for original output? The chances are they will be further refined though technology, so creativity will continue to be the key differentiator.
Creativity – it is like DNA. It is unique to those who produce it, but unlike DNA, the creative work can be easily replicated. At this stage, the adage “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” washes over the originators.
On the importance of creativity and staying original, we spoke to two of Wilson Hartnell’s Culture Collective, Angela Dorgan, First Music Contact and Hard Working Class Heroes and renowned Irish artist, Maser to hear their thoughts.
Angela Dorgan, said; “There has never been a more important time to champion original creativity. As the use of data informs what we watch, listen to, consume and more, we need to stay true to the creative filter that each person has within them, our own humanity. This is a filter that no algorithm, or robot can equal and creates real human connections.
There are many layers to creativity in most sectors, from the makers to the platforms that support and present creativity as well as the creative innovation that prompts conversation and discovery. Through each of these layers, we have an opportunity to create real connections and by championing original creativity, we can ensure that these connections are real, authentic and meaningful, defying algorithms and actually enhancing the lives of the people involved”.
Protecting Our Human Instincts
To get to the head, we must first get to the heart so while we fully embrace data, it is just as important to put as much energy into protecting our human instincts and allow time and space for those instincts to surface and be heard. In terms of creative development, these are things that will differentiate brilliant work from good work.
Maser knows this better than anyone. On creativity, he commented, “The Irish scene is hugely progressive. I have a small insight into it from the circles I’m in and those young artists I see aren’t conditioned. They are brave and fearless in their approach. Artists true to themselves and self-aware are the ones who will be here long after all the current fame, notoriety and money is gone again.
Their intentions are true, and it becomes transparent during hard times. I’ve huge love and respect for artists who take the risk to follow their need to create. It’s not an easy task but I can guarantee them, it’s a rewarding journey of purpose”.
So, there are lessons in their words for brands. In an increasingly frenetic world, stay fearlessly true to your purpose. The need to exercise bravery comes with the territory for us all these days. Just like consumer confidence, uncertainty can stifle creativity and yet in the most adverse of times, innovation breakthroughs are born.
“The Irish scene is hugely progressive. I have a small insight into it from the circles I’m in and those young artists I see are not conditioned. They are brave and fearless in their approach.” MASER, IRISH ARTIST
We are living in both progressive and regressive times in equal measure. Strategies adopting the twin peaks of head and heart will prevail. The brands that will prosper into the future are those that will take the best from the data but not at the expense of our human instincts.
Sharon Murphy is Chief Executive of Wilson Hartnell.
First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ July/August 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660