Creativity Crisis: Decline or Re-Deployment?


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I’m not so convinced that American creativity is declining, based on the evaluation criteria described in Newsweek. But rather that it’s being channeled elsewhere.

Relating it to our business, we are witnessing a huge shift in the expression of creativity: from the simple ‘what’ are we saying, to a more holistic ‘where’ and ‘how’ and ‘when’ are we saying it.

In other words, creativity is no longer just the domain of the creative department, but of everyone who thinks about where and how we deliver our message. The channel options are exploding and will likely continue to do so.

At the same time, the creative product itself is evolving: becoming less constructed and more iconic. Words play a lesser role in advertising today. Consumers respond more viscerally to imagery. In all media, they expect to read less and indeed either can’t or won’t stick with messaging that requires the kind of time and effort that reading more than a few words requires. But that’s hardly a function of the creativity quotient per se.

So is advertising ‘less creative’ today than five or ten years ago?

I believe that there are fewer overt ‘stand out’ examples of creativity now than then. Compare the selection of Super Bowl or Oscar night commercials over the years, and consensus is that the offerings have become less original, less funny, less clever and less visually stunning.

The same is true of other traditional channel work -print, OOH- that can be compared over a long period of time.

And the reasons can be debated – does increased clutter demand more branding and allow less whimsy? Does the kind of measurement increasingly applied to ads cause a dumbing down so that ‘everyone’ gets it?  Is the pool of ideas finite and running low? (Certainly we’re seeing more and more old concepts being re-made.)

But the range of channels is so much wider now, I believe there is as much creativity as ever, it’s just being stretched across so many more media.

If you were to select 50 pieces of great creative from each year, I believe you’d find the quality as high today as 10, 20 or 50 years ago. But today’s 50 would include virals, banners, micro sites, widgets, apps, experiences, AR’s and many other vehicles unheard of when TV and print ruled the award shows.

The good news is that given the increased range of options today, we will surely need more and more creative minds to fill them. And we will. Because creativity entertains, and entertainment sells.

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