Creativity Is Undergoing a Revolution—but This Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing

Adweek Advisory Board weighs in with their thoughts

This year's Cannes Lions saw much talk around creative disruption, particularly around how tech is changing the industry. Marian Brannelly
Headshot of Nicole Ortiz

While much of the news has been centered around breaches of privacy and mourning an industry that’s undergoing changes (ones largely impacted by emerging tech and digital development), there’s still hope—and it shouldn’t be a surprise that this hope is inspired by our treasured creatives. Some miss the old days of “traditional advertising,” but creatives are taking the new tools available in their digital toolkit and finding ways to innovate.

There are a few trends that many media, marketing and tech brands and agencies seem to be aiming for. All of them involve using emerging tech and creating a more personalized experience for target consumers. We asked our Adweek Advisory Board—comprised of 24 leaders across marketing, media and technology—about advertising’s creative disruption, focusing on how they’ve adapted their own companies in these increasingly digital days, what brands and campaigns they admire and what predictions they have for the future of the industry.

Creating memorable experiences

One way that many brands are trying to connect with their audience in a unique, unforgettable way is by creating experiences that will stick in their memories. From pop-up shops to activations, consumers show loyalty often when they have a positive memory associated with a brand.

Michelle Lee, editor in chief at Allure, said that “one of the most wonderful byproducts of social media has been that people are hungrier for experiences.”

“I admire organizations who focus on shaping experiences that create a new bar and sets new consumer expectations that must be dealt with across sectors,” said Baiju Shah, chief strategy officer of Accenture Interactive. He points specifically to Netflix and Peloton as two brands who are setting new standards for consumer expectations. “These brands have created their own categories and have reimagined the way brands, in any industry, should think about experiences—and that is to be unique and tailored to the way people live every day.”

"To get better each year, and to think through more complex issues, we need to pair our skills with other people and technology, tactfully using the skills of everyone."
—Ben Lamm, co-founder and CEO, Conversable and Hypergiant

Often, these experiences can be enhanced when a creative works hand-in-hand with the tech that’s at their disposal. However, as Colin Kinsella, CEO North America of Havas Media Group, noted, these “tools” will “only deliver value if used properly and in the right context.”

Ultimately, it’s important not to forget that creativity is about fostering a connection to the consumer, one that’ll leave them inclined to come back to a product or service. Nannette LaFond-Dufour, global chief client officer of McCann Worldgroup, said, “Technology can connect me to people, but it cannot make a connection to those people for me. That’s where creativity comes in. … By using technology to connect more easily with others, let’s not forget that effective communication requires creativity to actually develop relationships, build trust and create loyalty.”

Utilizing emerging tech

There’s little excuse to shy away from emerging tech. In fact, the brands, agencies and media groups that are experimenting with data and tech are the ones often found at the forefront of the industry. Some of the recurring themes of the past year have centered around developments in augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and blockchain, among others.

VR in particular “is creating the opportunity to create virtual product demos, explore features, immersive brand experiences that people will use rather than just see at trade shows,” said Terrance Williams, CMO and president of emerging business at Nationwide. “Tech like VR will open the doors to creative engagements that not only cross media and device but create situations where more than one element can be used at the same time to convey a message or feeling.”

Many look toward data and tech to influence creativity and foster new pathways toward innovation. Rather than view this as a “disruption,” co-founder and CEO of Conversable and Hypergiant, Ben Lamm, instead views technology as the much-needed next step that comes with “updating and improving.”

LaFond-Dufour discusses the impact of L’Oréal’s early embrace of tech and digital innovation. “L’Oréal identified technology as an opportunity for them to better help consumers shop their lines. They experimented with different technology solutions to solve consumer needs, which helps tremendously when it comes to relevance and driving purchase.”

Additionally, technology will also allow brands to advocate for themselves more efficiently, said David Mondragon, CEO of Triton Automotive Group. “Informed by AI, personalized creative coupled with programmatic delivery to the right customer at the right time will result in stronger recall, positive association (intended for a person like me) effectiveness and improved ROI.”

“As humanity progresses in the next few years, we are realizing being creative requires more than Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours,” Lamm said. “To get better each year, and to think through more complex issues, we need to pair our skills with other people and technology, tactfully using the skills of everyone.”

Personalizing for target consumers

Data allows marketers to get to know their audience in ways that they previously were unable to. Unfortunately, those efforts can go too far and lead to privacy breaches. On the other hand, when done in moderation, they can provide insight into groups and make it easier to cater to their specific tastes, needs and habits.

Data can be used “in a very specific [way] that paints a much more robust picture” and it can also provide insight into “how different triggers (like weather, current events, etc.) impact different consumers at a very specific local level,” said Kasha Cacy, CEO of UM U.S.

Caroline Papadatos, svp of global solutions at LoyaltyOne, said that the “broader use of data uncovers more perceptive insights about the way consumers live, shop and interact with one another.” With this knowledge, it makes it easier for a marketer to approach their audience with a personalized product or service.

Lee adds to that, pointing to the influencers and creators who are finding ways to connect with their audiences in different ways, in addition to brands. “Some creators are getting smarter about learning from audiences who we may not have had access to before. For example, my daughter took me down a rabbit hole of watching #SatisfyingSlime Instagram videos, and while it’s easy for us to write those off as kids’ stuff, there’s something for us to learn about that generation and what they’re engaging in.”

For instance, Cacy points to Spotify as an example of a brand that uses personalization to foster a stronger connection with its users. “We run into trouble when the consumer can see what we are doing because it puts them on guard,” she said. But Spotify has seen success after using data in a natural way that doesn’t feel intrusive to its audience. “Almost anyone you speak with will tell you that one of the reasons they love Spotify is because it makes music discovery so easy. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of data and technology driving that, but the consumer just feels like they’ve made an experience that is easy and valuable.”

“The data we have is also giving us interesting opportunities to understand niche groups and social ecosystems,” Lamm said, which offers the opportunity to hone in on whatever unique subsets your audience may have and then provides them with a useful solution.

With cutting-edge tech and the motivation to provide consumers with solutions, services and products that they’ll value, creatives will continue to disrupt and lead an advertising revolution. While the industry will continue to ebb and flow with trends, creativity will always be an integral part of its foundation.

@neco_ornot Nicole Ortiz is a senior editor at Adweek, overseeing magazine departments such as Trending, Talent Pool, Data Points, Voice and Perspective.