Not so long ago a digital creative approached me and wanted to discuss a problem with me: “When I get a briefing I have absolutely no idea where to begin. There are so many possibilities. And platforms. And innovations. Somehow you can make everything – and nothing”. I understand him completely. That is precisely why, on the one hand, being a creative in 2017 is really difficult. On the other hand, exactly why it is so exciting.
And, of course, a lot of things used to be simpler. You settled down with a couple of sheets of white paper, copious amounts of coffee and maybe a packet of cigarettes and “used your imagination”. Created familiar formats like 35-second TV spots from nothing, or filled a double page in a magazine with new contents. You wrote ten articles and the Creative Director had the in hindsight comparatively easy task: he had to decide which of them was the funniest, most surprising or most amazing. Then you scribbled ten notices, edited them and repeated the process. In those days everything was prepared fairly quickly and you knew that it would be turned on its head later.
Today it’s all different.
In-depth knowledge, huge amounts of research, a seamless strategy, intelligent data- aggregation and, based on this, precise target group segmentation; nowadays, these often seem to be the basic prerequisites before you can even begin to think about a headline. At least, that’s the theory. And it does make complete sense. In this – admittedly exaggerated – form it is, however, extremely costly, both in terms of expense and time. Above all, though, one factor is often forgotten, which hasn’t changed since the “good old days”: healthy understanding of people and a creative talent. Of course, as a creative one should be up to date with current technology and platforms and ideally be able to use them. Close cooperation with media and strategy is also absolutely essential. But a good idea is still a good idea today. Only the basis on which it can be developed has changed. New formats want to be fulfilled and technical possibilities exploited.
A solution to the problem or a solution looking for a problem?
An innovative, creative task is characterised, by definition, by providing a new solution for an existing problem. At a time in which, however, many things are happening “because they can”, the tables are turned in many instances. Today there are new solutions and to a certain extent problems for these have first to be found. For example: only seven years ago there was no iPad. Then suddenly there it was and agencies and customers alike asked themselves what effect this technical achievement would have on their business. Suddenly the supply was determining demand. Almost overnight creatives were forced to invent useful applications for a new device. It’s just as if the wireless were discovered today and tomorrow copywriters are having to write radio spots.
The principle of trial and error
So the only thing we can do is just try things out – because they are there and because we can, because it’s fun and not because we feel forced into it. Whether it’s VR, Chat-Bots, Facebook Live or Alexa. We should transfer this innovative gold-rush fever, which the tech start-ups demonstrate, to our own work. We should allow ourselves to be infected by this almost childlike impulse to play in this fascinating period and try things out. And if something doesn’t work, well that’s no bad thing. Then we just have to do things better, change them – or leave them and do something else. It sounds banal but it is nothing other than prototyping. Quickly changing something to test whether it works.
Of course there are no comparison values and no market research can answer our acquired urge to know whether something is right or wrong. But it doesn’t have to because nowadays the most important test group of all tells us whether it likes something – the consumers themselves.