When did technology replace the creative idea?
Over the past couple of years I have started noticing a recurring trend when I’m being briefed, it’s happening across all types of agencies from pure play digital, experiential, PR and the big ATL agencies. This trend isn't written on any brief or openly discussed in the kick-off meetings, instead it is casually mentioned after the briefing session comes to a close ‘Oh, by the way some new tech or innovation sort of thing would be great!’... As the work begins and initial ideas are being presented I start noticing that the concepts are beginning to be graded on their technological potential - and the direction of the creativity is moving more and more away from the initial brief.
So what’s happening in adland?
My first thought is that it’s easier to sell technological innovation instead of ideas to clients. Ideas can be scary, you don’t know if they will work and there is always a leap of faith between the agency, client services and the client. And presenting tech to a packed room of bored clients has it’s advantages ‘Look at this sparkly demo, doesn't it look cool!’. Why try explaining something new when you can show something old (and something that another agency has already done)?
Secondly innovation grabs headlines and every modern campaign needs a good social propellant to reach its optimum audience. Writing about a new idea is hard, it’s so much easier to write a Facebook post or a Tweet about some new technology, easy days, then it’s off for lunch.
So what’s the problem? I believe the fetishism of tech trends in advertising is destroying both true innovation and creative thinking. Why do something original when you can simply repurpose some existing idea and change the design slightly? It’s also making the advertising arena bland as agencies are consistently copy trends and therefore each other.
So how do I approach this conundrum? I’m happy to present technological innovation but only as part of a larger creative platform and I always spend time with client services helping to explain and articulate these ideas to their clients. Why? Because all of the best work I have seen has an amazing idea at it’s heart, something new, something thought provoking that gets people talking and these ideas are always more powerful than a gimmick or a technological trend. Don't believe me? Then take another look at the amazing #LikeAGirl campaign and tell me that the client should have gone with another tech based idea instead.