What a difference a continent makes… The Drum’s Creative Rumble came to New York from London last week and here, it seems, creativity is NOT in crisis.

Instead, the move towards purpose-driven marketing and the increased use of both tech platforms and tools mean that creativity today plays out on a far broader spectrum.

The Creative Rumble in partnership with Adobe Stock saw FCB New York ECD Gabriel Schmitt take on Erin Lynch, VP group executive creative director of R/GA in a quick-fire debate moderated by Kyle O’Brien, The Drum’s creative works editor.

The premise followed a disappointing Cannes festival, leading many to question whether creativity itself was in crisis – something also answered in London with perhaps a more pessimistic bent.

Creativity ‘beyond’ advertising

Here, both Schmitt and Lynch were insistent: “Creativity is not in crisis.” Moreover, investing in creativity helps to build the business bottom line.

Said Schmitt: “We are not only creative leads, we are business partners.” He said his job was to help clients make money and to do that meant having creative solutions at “every step of the way and every benchmark”.

“[That is] not only on the ECDs, the CCOs and the creatives, it’s on the account people, the planning teams and on the CFOs. It’s increasingly harder to come up with relevant things… but creativity is not in crisis – that’s bullshit.”

Lynch concurred: “I don’t think it’s in crisis at all – it is a lot more interesting than it has been,” she said. “The creative process has opened up an incredible amount and allows for creativity along a much wider spectrum.”

She added that consumers, and brands, now demand ‘creativity’ beyond the actually advert. “It needs to do more than for you to ‘just’ consume it, and that brings on really exciting challenges as well.”

But, as a result, are we growing more obsessed with creating work around good works for the primary purpose of awards, asked O’Brien, noting the trend towards rewarding purpose-driven campaigns at events such as Cannes.

Lynch countered that purpose-driven marketing and creativity was not just an award-winning possibility but a “win-win-win”. “Brands need to attach themselves to a purpose in order to survive,” she said. “It’s a win situation because doing purpose-driven marketing is really good for the world, it’s really good for society. But also for creatives it’s a win-win, because the storytellers out there, they have a rich brief to work on and know that they’re doing really good for society.

“But you can’t just live on the story – you have to have backgrounds in order to back up whatever that purpose is. There’s a whole load of creative technologists out there, experience designers, as well as the storytellers who need to get together in order to be successful in purpose-driven marketing.”

Schmitt agreed – in part. He felt some of the purpose-driven work being created was being done for little strategic reason or brand respect. “I’m all for it, I’ve done it, and we’ll always do it whenever it makes sense,” he said. “But I do feel you have to respect what the pillars of a brand are, and try to make it in a contextual way. Otherwise it feels like you’re just trying to save the world for the sake of it.”

Creativity isn’t a cost

The Rumble was followed by a ‘Putting it into practice’ panel with William Allen, vice president community products, Adobe, joining to stoke the debate. For him the power of creativity comes with a lot of responsibility but the value in the digital era was obvious. “It is just this implicit fact that creativity matters,” said Allen.

“The smartest companies that I see recognize that creativity isn’t a cost, it’s a competitive advantage. If you invest in creative, if you invest in design, you will do better than the marketplace.”

Schmitt, however, worries how companies and agencies could better prove the value of what they created. “A lot of agencies struggle to really show it, to prove the value to their clients or board members,” he said, adding that strategy and strategic insight was “almost more important” than the creative work.

Meanwhile, Lynch pointed to the growing role of data and colleagues such as marketing scientists in order to help “translate and ensure that the creative idea we’re going forward with has a foundation in data”.

“A lot of the work we do is very data driven and I don’t really think you can do work that’s not data driven anymore,” she added, citing the role that technology is playing in all elements of creativity.

Technology can help unlock latent creativity in everybody, added Allen later, and as such help also empower inclusivity. “We’re all born creative,” he concluded. “Too often it’s beaten out of us over time though a lucky few of us hold on to it over the years. So how do we, as a society, give people the tools they need at any stage of life in order to make their ideas a reality?”

Originally published on The Drum, 8 August 2019.