8I 9T 31 C 3E
2R 23 E 30 Y 1C
11 C 12 R
29 T 15 T
19 T 14 A
25 T 17 V
21 C 18 I
T H I N K Q UA R T E R LY
T H I N K Q UA R T E R LY THE CREATIVITY ISSUE
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Creativity. As the internet comes of age, it is expanding the limits of human imagination and unleashing a wealth of new creative possibilities. We are creating a tidal wave of ‘bytes’, from digital art installations to no-budget movies on YouTube, from self-published books and remixed music to an avalanche of posts, texts and emails. This is our creative output – but what does it mean? The Creativity issue of Think Quarterly documents this far-reaching transformation, cutting through the noise to focus on the fundamental questions. What does creativity look like in a digital context? How can you nurture it? What does it mean for your brand, your partners and your customers? We’re also weighing the risks. How do we encourage the democratisation of creativity while protecting ownership? How do we surface the truly original and inspirational? I hope you enjoy the issue. Please share your thoughts with me or any of the team next time we meet.
Dan Cobley Managing Director, Google UK
page 22 08 THINK CREATIVITY
Think Quarterly represents the collective mindspace of journalists, academics, experts and industry leaders from around the world. Some are Google’s homegrown visionaries. Others lend their outside perspectives. All tell stories you won’t find anywhere else.
Lorraine Twohill joined Google in 2003 as the company’s ﬁrst Head of Marketing in Europe and is now responsible for marketing eﬀorts globally. She was recently named AdWeek’s Grand Brand Genius for her work in shaping Google’s brand and for inviting users to do so, too. A native of Ireland, Lorraine previously led the marketing eﬀorts for European travel portal Opodo. She talks about how Google’s engineering culture inspires our approach to creativity on page 18.
Belinda Parmar is a columnist and founder of Lady Geek and Lady Geek TV. Recently named Best Internet Company 2011 by RED magazine, Lady Geek seeks to make technology more accessible and appealing to women and young girls by educating brands through research and workshops. Belinda is the author of the soon-to-be published Little Miss Geek and immerses herself in the 3D technology revolution poised to add a new dimension to advertising on page 22. Grab your 3D glasses before getting started.
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TORRENCE BOONE CECELIA WOGAN-SILVA BLAIR DORE
Director Chris Milk, best known for his music videos, has worked with artists as diverse as U2, Kanye West and Green Day. In 2011, he was honoured in The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. His work has won awards at the Cannes Lions, D&AD, CLIOs, and SXSW, and has been nominated for multiple Grammys. The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive video he produced for Arcade Fire in conjunction with Google, is currently on display at MoMA. Chris reveals the 10 things that inspire him creatively on page 28.
Kent Walker is Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, overseeing the company’s legal team worldwide and advising its board on matters of corporate governance. His résumé includes serving as Deputy General Counsel of eBay, Executive Vice President at the Netscape- and Oracle-founded Liberate Technologies, and Associate General Counsel for both Netscape Communications and America Online. Kent oﬀers his views on the need to protect creativity and artistic freedom on page 30.
Torrence Boone, who serves as Managing Director of Agency Development, joined Google after serving as CEO of agency Enfatico and now leads all of Google’s relationships with marketing and advertising agencies. Cecelia Wogan-Silva leads development among creative and independent media agencies, and previously served as Senior Vice President at Grey Global. Agency Strategy Development Lead Blair Dore comes from the publishing world, having previously worked at Time Inc. They discuss why agencies are getting agile on page 48.
An artist specialising in data and digital technologies, Aaron Koblin leads the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab. His work takes real-world and community-generated data and uses it to reﬂect on cultural trends and the changing relationship between humans and technology. He received the National Science foundation’s ﬁrst place award for science visualisation, and is part of the permanent collection at both MoMA in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Aaron discusses creative data on page 62.
Contact email@example.com The articles appearing within this publication reﬂect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team. thinkwithgoogle.co.uk/quarterly © Google 2012 11
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love the fact you’re shooting with old-fashioned film,” says Ajaz Ahmed as Think Quarterly’s photographer clicks, whirrs and winds through a roll of portrait shots in an East London studio. It’s an unlikely thing for the 38-yearold founder and chairman of creative agency AKQA to say. He is, after all, a digital pioneer who understood that the future of media was online when the internet was still in its infancy. Ahmed seemed to sense instinctively that the new technology would democratise media, change the way people communicate and galvanise a new era of selfexpression and creativity. And he understood that these changes would have a profound effect on the way brands were advertised. Ahmed apologises for being tired, although it’s hardly noticeable. When you’re the head of a global organisation (AKQA has eight offices in six time zones) it’s not practical to stick to regular working hours, and he was on the job until the middle of the night. “I’m lucky that I work with organisations I love and I’m passionate about it,” he says, fending off the suggestion that he works too hard. “Working until 4am isn’t a problem when it still feels like a labour of love.”
Ajaz Ahmed, founder and chairman of awardwinning creative agency AKQA, explains how the innovative use of digital tools can connect your brand to an audience like never before. Words by
Matthew Lee Spencer Murphy
P ho to g r a p h y b y
Ahmed’s passion is evidently shared by his colleagues, and has helped AKQA win more awards than any other digital advertising agency in the world. It was named US and UK Agency of the Year by both Adweek and Campaign in 2011, receiving acclaim for innovations such as a Heineken app that lets football fans predict scores during Champions League games, and a Nike app that turns an iPhone into a personal trainer. Other clients on the roster include blue-chip brands like Audi, Visa, Volkswagen, Gap, Unilever and Ferrari. While Ahmed’s journey from the Thames Valley to Silicon Valley is certainly some achievement, it’s not the improbable leap it may at first appear. For an English teenager with an interest in computing, the western edge of London was a great place to be in the mid-’90s. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world had their UK offices in the region, and Ahmed worked for three of them – first at dBASE developer Ashton-Tate, followed by a stint at entertainment giant Ocean, and finally Apple. He left London to study business in the sleepy spa town of Bath, only to find himself missing the dynamism and fast pace of the tech industry. It was while he was away, however, that Ahmed was struck by the realisation that everything was changing. “A friend said he wanted to show me something in the computer lab at university,” he explains. “I headed over and he showed me a picture. I asked what was so special about it and he told me he’d downloaded it from America. Something clicked. It was the convergence of media and technology that Apple had been talking about when I was there. I felt I needed to leave university and start a company that would help brands navigate this landscape.” Ahmed launched AKQA in 1994 at the ripe old age of 21 – the company name is based on his initials. He hit the ground running, rapidly earning a reputation for being able to successfully steer brands through this strange new world. Typically, websites in the mid-1990s were ‘brochureware’ – static sites that failed to take advantage of the web’s potential to engage audiences in creative and interactive ways. “The difference with us was that we saw the web as software,” Ahmed explains. 14 THINK CREATIVITY
“It’s never been easier to skip, filter or avoid advertising so the best ideas are the ones that respect that the audience needs to get something out of the work; it should inspire, satisfy or motivate them. You can’t just bombard people with messages any more.”
“We wanted to put multimediocrity out of its misery and use technology to celebrate the spirit of our clients.” In 2001, the agency announced a merger with companies from North America and Singapore, significantly expanding its global reach – in terms of both clients and markets – along with its ability to find new ways to explore the full marketing potential of the evolving technology. Eleven years after the merger, Ahmed believes that “digital has now become the visible expression of a brand”. The 1960s is often referred to as advertising’s ‘golden age’, and yet by Ahmed’s reckoning, we’re in it right now. You only have to watch an episode of Mad Men to see how creatively limited the industry was when restricted to print, radio and TV. Companies delivered blunt messages in broad terms to a homogeneous audience. By comparison, Ahmed says, digital offers an extraordinary canvas. A brand can use social media such as Twitter or Google+ to engage directly with its customers and develop relationships; it can upload videos to YouTube that users can share with their friends; it can create a mobile app able to tap into the needs and desires of a local community. “Advertising used to be about interrupting people’s days with messages,” Ahmed explains. “But now it’s never been easier for audiences to skip, filter or avoid advertising so the best ideas are the ones that respect that the audience needs to get something out of the work; it should inspire, satisfy or motivate them. You can’t just bombard people with messages any more.” The key for brands is to transform themselves from message-pushers into storytellers. “It used to be that the press or TV ad was the most visible expression of a brand. Today, the customer journey will start on mobile, YouTube or a social platform. That means all brands are going to have to become better storytellers, using digital to convey their message as it’s the most effective and powerful way to connect with audiences,” Ahmed says. “The most compelling stories are told by brands that use the inherent properties of social media to do something that can’t be done in another media,” he continues, citing AKQA’s work for Nike in which
they used Facebook as a platform to search for talented footballers around the world. Seventy-five thousand footballers competed for places at the Nike Academy, and over five million people viewed the videos. It was an astonishingly successful campaign that took advantage of the functionality of social media to push Nike’s 25-year-old message, ‘Just Do It’. “We use social media to bring brands closer to their audiences,” Ahmed says. “We want to turn conversations into relationships and contribute to communities with inspirational work.” he increased sales of smartphones equipped with GPS technology suggests that mobile advertising is likely to play a large role in AKQA’s future work. “Trying to retro-fit a TV advert on a mobile probably won’t succeed, but if you think about using location-based ideas that can’t be done on the web or TV, then it will likely achieve better results,” he says. Practising what they preach, AKQA developed a successful mobile app for Gap that allowed customers in San Francisco to receive vouchers automatically for nearby stores. Once inside, the app enabled those customers to photograph themselves to see what they’d look like wearing the styles on sale. And if they weren’t sure whether they liked what they saw, they could share the pictures via social media for instant feedback from friends and the wider Gap community. AKQA has also worked on location-based services for the likes of USPS (on-the-go access to postal services in your area) and Delta (including a useful app to locate your car after landing). Another advantage of digital media is that it’s easier to assess what does and doesn’t work, with analytics software telling you everything you need to know about web traffic and the effectiveness of your marketing. In turn, it becomes easier for clients to assess the agency’s contribution. “There are four ways of measuring the success of our work,” Ahmed says. “Have we increased the brand equity of the client? Have we generated additional sales? Have we generated additional shareholder value?
“Small ideas when nurtured well can go from being embryos to giants. The magic is in the product, the values and the spirit of the brand, so it must seek to amplify these truths in an interesting, consistent voice across all customer touchpoints.”
Have we lowered our clients’ costs by increasing efficiency?” A celebrated AKQA campaign that certainly succeeded on every front was a 2006 video made for Coca-Cola in which English footballer Wayne Rooney appeared nonchalantly doing juggling tricks with an empty Coke can. It was a great example of digital advertising that consumers felt compelled to share, and it was viewed by over eight million people. Where do simple but brilliant ideas like this come from? When you have the best and brightest creative minds in eight cities worldwide, Ahmed says, the ideas can come from anywhere. And with digital’s potential to reach out to many different customers in many different ways, there’s no longer an imperative to land the single big idea. “Big ideas are courageous, ambitious, revolutionary and rare,” he explains. “But the ‘big idea’ is a cliché; an identikit term that’s become deprived of feeling.” Instead, Ahmed suggests, brands should be looking for ideas that can go viral. “The only ideas that matter are the ones that people want to share, because the built-in digital infrastructure has accelerated the velocity of distribution, whether through social networks, ecommerce or an app store,” he explains. In this context, it doesn’t really matter if an idea is big or small. “Small ideas when nurtured well can go from being embryos to giants,” says Ahmed. “What’s important is that agencies respect audiences and be artful. The magic is in the product, the values and the spirit of the brand, so it must seek to amplify these truths in an interesting, consistent voice across all customer touchpoints.” Ahmed points to YouTube as an example: “YouTube provides multiple formats for advertising. One that’s incredibly accessible for a brand is to have an ad at the beginning of a video. An agency’s responsibility is to make that ad artful and creative so a viewer doesn’t want to skip it. You’ve got to use the inherent properties of digital – be creative and interactive, use multimedia, don’t be linear. Instead of using formats that existed in the old media and trying to refit them, the challenge is to be innovative with the new technology to tell a client’s story in a better way.” 15
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Who is your inspiration?
What is your earliest memory? Aged four, running around like crazy trying to keep even younger cousins entertained.
When was your last moment of clarity? Realising that not having your spirit crushed is the key to all motivation.
Which piece of music alters your state of mind? Most recently, songs from Ed Sheeran, Adele, and Florence and the Machine. Every now and then I go back to listening to Bob Dylan, The Streets and Kings of Leon because their tunes remind me of an important moment in my life.
What does success look like to you?
What do you want to be when you’re older? Someone who has nothing left to give.
What’s your signature dish?
Getting anything that crushes your spirit out of the way.
Jamie Oliver’s ‘20 Minute Meals’ app.
What is your greatest extravagance?
What was your greatest mistake? When did you last let yourself go?
My parents. Their stories are an extraordinary and beautiful adventure in serendipity.
I’ve been working since I was 15. I’ve made mistakes, observed others, and hopefully learned not to repeat them. But I look forward to making plenty of new ones.
I’ve opted for a simple life. There will always be someone else with more.
When I was 14.
How much is enough? When it’s the fuel for progress, never.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Knowing the best days are when you get to see the sunrise and the worst days are when you don’t get up early enough.
What is your biggest failure?
What do you want that you can’t have?
Not being able to get a private jet.
A private jet. Especially when delayed for five hours waiting for an internal flight in the US like I am now.
If you had to stay in one place, where would it be? Tokyo.
Tell us a joke. Stream my two favourite films – Airplane! and Zoolander – they have much better jokes than I can tell.
What do you see in the mirror? My father’s son
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ngineers see the world differently. While most of us accept what we see or adapt to our environments, an engineer wonders ‘Why?’ Why are things the way they are? Why can’t we change them? This passion for solving problems drives a lot of our creative thinking at Google. We aspire to be a company that tackles issues that affect billions of people, whether they’re small, everyday concerns or huge, global-scale problems. Curiosity and creativity are never far apart. You need to be curious to identify problems worth solving, and then come up with new solutions. We try to foster this in the Google culture. Our teams are full of curious, energetic, passionate people from diverse backgrounds, and they have unconventional approaches to work, play and life. Our atmosphere may be casual, but as new ideas emerge – at lunch, on campus, in the gym – they are traded, tested and put into practice with dizzying
speed. Often these ideas become launch pads for new projects destined for worldwide use. We don’t just solve problems with our software, but also with our marketing. Ultimately, we want to help people understand how technology can enhance their lives, letting them spend time doing more important things than reading a manual. To do that, we remind ourselves to constantly ask ‘why’ and keep a few rules of thumb in mind: focus on one real person, be open, say yes and have a purpose. In a world where everything we do is counted in the billions (clicks, visits, users), it’s easy to think solely in terms of numbers and digits. That’s why we try to focus on one real person. That real person could be your mum, your brother or your friend. Boiling technology down to a simple message focusing on real benefits that matter to people can make a product personal. It shows people how technology connects to and enhances their daily lives. It’s not always easy; people are more complex than machines, after all. We certainly don’t get it right every time,
Good ideas sell products. Great ideas change lives. From opening up our brand to opening up museums, we see creativity as a way to solve problems – large and small. Lorraine Twohill, Google VP of Global Marketing, explains how. W ORDS B Y
Lorraine Twohill Geoff McFetridge
ILLUST RATI O N B Y
but our best creative work carries a simple yet meaningful message. Our ‘Dear Sophie’ ad for Chrome shows how one person – a new dad – can use the web to share memories with his daughter as she grows up. We embrace creativity all around us. Ideas can come from anyone, not just a ‘Creative’ department. We open-source ideas internally, and we also collaborate with many content creators, artists, developers, brands, agencies and people who come to us with wonderful ideas. They stretch and inspire us. Collaboration is essential to problemsolving in our increasingly complex world. That is why we believe so strongly in the power of open technologies and platforms. They enable anyone, anywhere, to apply their unique skills, perspectives and passions to the creation of new products and features on top of our platforms. One of our initiatives, ‘Chrome Experiments’, encourages interesting uses of HTML5 on our Chrome browser. Perhaps the most well-known experiment to come out of this is The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive multimedia video set to music from Arcade Fire. It was a collaboration between the band, our Data Arts team (see p.62) and writer/director Chris Milk (see p.28). The project wasn’t about the technology. It was about how we could use technology to redefine the music video experience. Because let’s face it, not a lot has changed since MTV debuted ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ almost 30 years ago. There are plenty more examples, for which we can take very little credit. Through Google+, artists like will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, and singersongwriter Daria Musk, are re-imagining what a live concert can be. Sal Khan is using the YouTube platform to revolutionise a system of education that has barely changed in two centuries. In 2006, the former hedge fund analyst began remotely tutoring family members, posting video lessons for them to watch in their own time, at their own pace. Since then, his ‘Khan Academy’ has grown into an online collection of over 2,800 educational videos with over 118 million views. They are fun, clever and incredibly creative. For Khan, they all started as a solution to a problem: how can I schedule tutoring sessions around work, football practice, and different time zones? 20 THINK CREATIVITY
“It’s too easy to say ‘no’ all the time. It’s too easy to be cautious. Pushing the boundaries of creativity means saying ‘yes’, taking risks, trying new things, learning and being surprised. So we don’t just open-source ideas at Google, we opensource our brand.”
Creativity can also be a decision you make. And the truth is, it’s too easy to say ‘no’ all the time. It’s too easy to be cautious. Pushing the boundaries of creativity means saying ‘yes’, taking risks, trying new things, learning and being surprised. So we don’t just open-source ideas at Google, we open-source our brand. Every day, illustrators and engineers create beautiful interpretations of our logo, and we display these ‘Doodles’ on our homepage. For a number of years, one of my favourite marketing programs has been Doodle 4 Google. It is a competition that asks students to design a Doodle around a theme such as ‘Our Community’ or ‘My Future’. No one is more creative than kids, and this contest drives that home for me every year. By inviting users of all ages to share their imagination, we ultimately share ownership of our brand. It wasn’t a coincidence that we released the beta version of Gmail, offering one GB of free storage, on April Fool’s Day, 2004. That much storage is normal now, but at the time no one else came close, so people thought we were joking. When they realised we weren’t, it was a delightful surprise and also a huge story. We didn’t do it with a flashy ad, we did it with a decision. Similarly, we chose to license the little green Android robot under Creative Commons, meaning anyone can do whatever they want with it. This has helped the immense success of Android and has also fostered an incredible momentum of creative energy all over the world. Creativity is most powerful when it has a purpose. Through projects at Google, we have opened up the world’s best museums (Art Project), helped kids develop a love of science (Google Science Fair and YouTube Space Lab), showed how much we all have in common (Life in a Day), and brought small businesses onto the web (Getting British Businesses Online). We have a strong sense of why we exist and why we do what we do. We believe that our legacy – as a company and as individuals – should be to make a difference in the world around us. Whether helping a small business owner, a new dad, or a kid who wants to learn more, it’s a healthy disregard for the impossible that compels us to find creative solutions to all sorts of problems. So next time, ask an engineer what he or she would do. Or better yet, hire one
2011 Doodle 4 Google winn
er, ‘Space Life’, Life,’ by Matteo
Lopez, aged seven
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Itâ€™s not just cinema that has been revolutionised by 3D technology. From advertising to retail to design, the third dimension is changing the way we interact with the world forever. W ORD S B Y
Belinda Parmar Andrew Holder
ILLUST RATI O N S B Y
hen James Cameron’s bluepeopled behemoth, Avatar, broke box office records back in 2010, it was heralded as the dawn of a new technological era. The third dimension had arrived. Yet two years down the line, the coverage afforded 3D remains oddly guarded – much of the debate still centres on whether it is a short-lived fad; an opinion supported by countless gimmicky 3D post-production conversions, which have enhanced the cinematic experience only in terms of the ticket price. But cinema only reveals part of the story – look further afield and the signs point not only to 3D sticking around, but to it having a huge impact on the way we engage with the world around us. Recent advances not only in entertainment but in industries like fashion, advertising, manufacturing and technology suggest that 3D interactivity is moving from our screens into our hands. That’s why, in order to truly appreciate the scope of the 3D revolution, we need to look past the growing
London’s South Bank to a standstill with its grandstanding launch of the Lumia. Back in 2010, LG showcased its 3D Optimus One technology in Berlin’s Kulturbrauerie complex, virtually transforming an entire building into a Google Android avatar. “The purpose of the activity was to align LG’s Optimus brand with something unique, innovative and a bit edgy,” explains Kenneth Hong, LG’s Director of Global Communications. “We weren’t sure how well the concept would go over since we’d never done anything like it before, but the 3D effect really worked and everyone enjoyed the show. At first, we weren’t sure if the ROI was very good, but over time the initiative proved to be a great investment because it had staying power.” On a smaller, consumer-targeted scale, 3D modelling is being used to transform the way tablet users interact with ads. One example is online media start-up Cooliris, whose recent advertisements for iPad have deployed interactive 3D models of everything from mobile phones to BMWs. Cooliris co-founder and CEO Soujanya Bhumkar maintains
“Integrating 3D technology into ad formats is the next step since it allows users to interact with and view products from every angle.” popularity of 3D TVs, or the launch of gadgets like the Nintendo 3DS and HTC Evo 3D smartphone, and consider the other industries beginning to realise the creative and commercial potential of the third dimension, often with fascinating results. Fashion designer Norma Kamali has a reputation for being one of the most innovative in the industry. Rarely one to make a misstep, her most recent innovation is the use of 3D to digitally showcase her latest designs. The website for her spring collection contains an eight-minute video as well as a downloadable ‘lookbook’, all in flawlessly executed 3D. The Stereoscopic photography shows off Kamali’s designs in a way that is exciting and startlingly beautiful, bringing the catwalk experience straight into your living room. he advantages of 3D are now being utilised in ad campaigns for all manner of products. Entire cities have recently been visited by the building-sized 3D projections that have been used as viral marketing stunts by companies like Nokia who, in November, brought 24 THINK CREATIVITY
that, though visually impressive, 3D technology moves beyond gimmickry because it provides an interactive, user-driven encounter not found in other ads. “You can really touch, feel and play with the product. It lets you drive the experience,” says Bhumkar. Cooliris’ technology is also able to monitor the way in which users interact with their adverts – telling them which part or features of the product are most examined, thus giving clients a unique insight into what consumers are attracted to. “A 3D image experience can be very positive for consumers,” says Google New Business Development Manager Sidney Chang. It’s why 360-degree views and videos are becoming common among retailer websites, many of which have seen higher conversion rates as a result. “Integrating 3D technology into ad formats would be the next step since it allows users to interact with and view products from every angle,” he explains. This added layer of realism provides a much richer experience. But although Chang thinks 3D will become more common as the technology evolves, he foresees some challenges
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along the way: “Users are not used to interacting with 3D images [so] the 3D design itself has to cue the users to interact with the image.” hat makes 3D ad campaigns even more likely to represent the future is the ease with which 3D modelling can now be carried out. Whereas in the past the practice was only accessible to high-end industry professionals, software such as Google SketchUp (which was developed by Colorado start-up @Last Software in 2000 and acquired by Google in 2006) is leading the way in bringing 3D tools to everyone. SketchUp has a unique and intuitive ‘push/pull’ interface that makes 3D a genuinely accessible problemsolving tool for architects, engineers, game developers, filmmakers and even amateur designers. What’s more, Google’s online 3D Warehouse gives users the opportunity to upload their models and share them with the rest of the world.
Instead of printing ink on paper, 3D printers physically replicate a digital model by spraying fine layers of a liquid material which then solidify. Buddy Byrum of industry leader 3D Systems, whose recent acquisitions of 3D printing companies Z Corp and Vidar Systems have demonstrated its commitment to making the technology affordable for everyone, says that 3D printing is on the brink of something huge. “There’s an analogy that you can look at – with 2D photography for example. Twenty years ago, if you had a photo printer at home it would not have had much use because digital cameras were not widely available. The same phenomenon exists today with 3D printing.” But, he says, that is all going to change. “The amount of advancement is explosive today in terms of making it easier for the everyday person to go online and purchase or design their own content, all with tools that don’t require an engineering degree to understand.” Say you want a new vase for your living room: it’s now entirely possible for a person to log on to SketchUp,
“The amount of advancement is explosive today with tools that don’t require an engineering degree to understand.” Marketing Manager Gopal Shah says the advantages of 3D modelling are clear: “You can draw something, and then quickly and easily rotate it and view it from the front, back or any angle you wish. One 3D model can contain all the information that previously would have taken you a pile of separate drawings to make.” The software, which boasts millions of users, is already revolutionising interior design, and could also provide a huge benefit to home retailers. By uploading free-to-use models of their products to the 3D Warehouse, stores can give prospective customers the chance to ‘try before they buy’, virtually placing merchandise within a digital version of their living room. Of course, designs created via 3D modelling applications still have to be physically manufactured. It’s all very well being able to model your dream table, but what good is it until you can eat your dinner off it? That’s where the democratisation of 3D printing technology – which has been with us since the 1980s but is only now becoming truly affordable – comes in.
design their own model and send it off to a company like 3D Systems to be ‘developed’. A few days later, the vase arrives on your doorstep. Unique. Individual. Your own creation. When 3D printing eventually makes it into the home – and Byrum says there’s no doubt it will – the process will be even simpler. There is every possibility that we’ll be printing our own clothes, our own furniture, our own tools. It should transform both the design and consumer experience, giving us the sort of customisation options that disappeared in the age of mass manufacturing. The rise of 3D technology is just getting started. In the past 150 years we have seen a shift from the still image to the moving image, from silence to sound, from monochrome to Technicolor. Each of these revolutions was initially dismissed as a gimmick before being embraced by the world. Now it’s the turn of the third dimension. As the technology evolves and becomes ever more accessible, there’s no doubt it will transform the way that our children’s generation will work, play, learn and build 27
Artist Chris Milk has made music videos for the likes of U2 and Kanye West. His latest work – including The Johnny Cash Project and Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown – shows how technology can create emotional resonance. Here, he reveals the people, principles, ideas, and tools that keep his creative fires burning. W o rd s b y
In 1999, Qwest released an ad in which a guy checking into a motel is told each room has ‘every movie ever made in every language – at any time, day or night.’ When I first saw it back then it seemed about as far away as flying cars. Search YouTube for ‘Qwest – Every Movie’ to view it for yourself. See what just happened there? What they failed to mention was that it would be on a TV we carried around in our pocket. In fact, I just searched and watched that very spot on my new Galaxy Nexus. 28 THINK CREATIVITY
Or humanity translated through 1s and 0s. Artfully crafted technology has the potential to touch us like any other art form. The web takes cinema and turns it into a two-way conversation with the viewer. We are at the inception point of a brand new art form that will provide us with the great canons of the next century. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what to make with it.
This documentary has about a hundred fascinating ideas about creativity in the digital age. As the technological barriers have been lowered, everyone is now a photographer, musician, filmmaker, editor, graphic designer or fine artist. The problem is who to pay attention to. It may be simultaneously the best and worst time in history to be an artist.
…but people still whine about it. I’ve seen people complain endlessly online about how they refuse to download ‘another damn browser’ to watch a web project with HTML5 or WebGL in it. In 1954, if you wanted to watch The Ed Sullivan Show in glorious colour, you had to drive to the store, give them the equivalent of £6,000, and carry a 400-pound crate back to your house. Now you click three buttons on a screen, for free.
Amazon’s membership programme isn’t ‘creative’ per se, but it allows me to be. I don’t have an assistant. If there’s something I need, I order it with Prime shipping and I have it the day after tomorrow. That goes for everything from paper towels to HDMI cables to refrigerators. It’s the best £49 a year I’ve ever spent.
In 2004, Franklin Leonard started The Black List as an experiment in taking the collective temperature of the Hollywood zeitgeist through the best unproduced screenplays of that year. Now Franklin is upping the game by building a site that uses the power of crowdsourcing and algorithms to not just determine the best unproduced screenplays, but the best unproduced screenplays that I, the user, will specifically respond to. It’s like ‘also recommended’ on Amazon, only for the murky waters of unmade films.
I’m fascinated with this guy. He uses code to produce new works indistinguishable from those of long-dead classical masters. Musicologists think he’s the devil; I think he’s a prophet.
In breathless monologues posted on Vimeo, Jason Silva is preaching the future as inspired by the likes of Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. Why shouldn’t we look at death as a curable disease that we just haven’t cured yet? I do now. I just hope he figures out the answer and slips me a vial of it before my time comes.
Being from NY, and working in a pizzeria there growing up, I take this probably a little too seriously. The ‘My Maps’ function in Google Maps makes it much easier to update and share the exhaustive research. Check out the Think Quarterly website for a link.
I have to admit, I was very late to this game mainly because I don’t get up early on Saturday mornings. My current goal is to listen to all 454 episodes of this weekly radio show. There is something weird and magical that happens when you remove the visual of a narrative – it sometimes becomes more emotionally resonant. I find myself crying at stories that I know, if I was watching an accompanying visual component, I wouldn’t cry at. Why does it affect me more when I can’t see it? And since I’m trying to make emotional works in a visual medium, am I fighting a losing battle? Should I be directing radio plays? Is the FM frequency the future? 29
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From Bob Dylan to William Shakespeare, fair use laws have allowed artists in all ages to build on influences from the past. Today, as digital tools and platforms blur the boundaries between creators and consumers, it’s more important than ever to safeguard that right. W ords by
Kent Walker | I LLU S T R ATI O N b y Andrew Lyons
loggers and lawyers (and bloggers’ lawyers) are fiercely debating copyright in chat rooms and courtrooms across the world. Are laws written for an analogue era stifling digital creativity? Can nothing be done about online piracy? How do we compensate creators while empowering both consumers and new generations of authors and artists? What path should we be taking through our first digital century? First, let’s talk about what it means to create. “Creativity isn’t magic. It comes by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials,” said writer/director Kirby Ferguson on his web video series Everything is a Remix. “By connecting ideas together, creative leaps can be made, producing some of history’s biggest breakthroughs.”
Everything is a Remix catalogues instances throughout history of artists taking inspiration through derivation. Bob Dylan’s first album contained 11 covers. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb – his first patent was for ‘improvement in electric lamps’ – he just created the first commercially viable one. And my own favourite example: Shakespeare remixed playwrights from a century earlier, and it’s nearly impossible to count the works he himself has inspired. That’s 450 years of creativity made possible by fair use and public domain. Digital platforms give us access to more content – the building blocks of creativity – than ever before. We have unparalleled resources to remix and build upon influences, the technology to make creation easier than ever and the biggest audience the world has ever seen. According to YouTube’s own statistics, 69 percent of adult internet users have streamed or downloaded video online. That’s 52 percent of the adult population of the United States.
Digital platforms are also bringing in money: hundreds of our partners on YouTube are making over £60,000 a year, and the number of YouTube creators who are making upwards of £600 per day is up 300 percent since the start of 2010. We’re even seeing entirely new models of creative production, like the 101 classical musicians from 30 different countries who were selected for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra based on online audition videos. The orchestra had its inaugural performance at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2009. There has never been a better time to be an artist or a consumer; even so, we can’t afford to sit back and get complacent. The kind of creativity you see online – in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, or the educational videos from Khan Academy, or the inspirational TED Talks that are freely released on the web – has been made possible through legal provisions that protect and promote the progress of science and art. Google itself is valuable because fair use lets it copy and search the context of other websites. But these protections aren’t guaranteed. The world continues to change at an exponential rate. It is certainly challenging to apply information law to technologies and media that didn’t exist when the law was written. The best way forward is through thoughtful dialogue that takes into account the needs and rights of both creators and consumers, especially as these traditional categories increasingly blur. We also need to identify the aspects of our existing laws that allow creativity to flourish, and ensure that those components stay firmly in place. When we think about copyright, we often don’t think about the balances that allow some copying in legitimate ways, which often benefits both consumers and new generations of creators. A journalist quoting a report can substantiate their article while helping that report reach a larger audience. Music lovers copying their own CDs to the Cloud can listen to their music anywhere. A musician riffing off a previous composition can create a whole new work of art. Charles Gounod improvised a melody on top of a 137-year-old composition by Bach, ‘Prelude No. 1 in C Major’, creating the ‘Ave Maria’ we so often hear at weddings and funerals today. An effective copyright regime breathes life into creative content online, whether in plain-text bulletin boards, Flickr, Twitter or YouTube. These platforms need to be bolstered by information law that takes into account the rights of both consumers and creators. Laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Communications Decency Act both protect creators
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and ensure that there is a healthy degree of freedom of expression on the platforms that host their content, be it words or photos, videos or music. Get that balance wrong and we run the risk of unfairly suppressing the 99 percent of great content online for fear of the one percent that breaks the rules. There’s more at stake here than abstractions. A study published by Booz & Company last year highlighted exactly how much digital creativity is contributing to our fast-changing economy. The eBook market alone is expected to exceed £10 billion in 2013. The value of the digital music market in 2014 is projected to be £20.7 billion. About 15 percent of the growth of US GDP over the past five years can be credited to the internet. As a company that makes and maintains digital platforms, it’s Google’s job to build, but it’s also our job to listen. We want to stay in tune with creators and the broader content industries, understand their needs and partner with them to make sure we’re all optimally equipped for the digital age. And there are some great thinkers out there who are helping to move us all forward, like the people at Creative Commons, a non-profit organisation that builds legal and technical tools that allow new creators to share their work with the world more easily. The results can be illuminating. The success of streaming music service Spotify has shown that when they’re given high-quality, fairly priced, easily accessible content, consumers can and will play by the rules. A report in Spotify’s home country of Sweden last year found that the number of people downloading music illegally had dropped 25 percent since 2009. We’re all going to have to work together on the blueprints for an information law that respects the basic tenets of copyright and benefits both creators – like the bands and artists whose videos we’re proud to host on YouTube; or the 35,000 authors and publishers we work with on Google Books – and consumers. Looking at the big picture, we aim to maintain fair use and ‘safe harbour’ regulations in the US, improve the laws we have that govern ‘orphan works’ without an obvious copyright holder, and promote this approach internationally. That way, we’ll have the best environment possible for innovative people to make the creations they’ve always dreamed of, and the best distribution system for their work to reach the widest possible audience. We’ll be able to enjoy new forms of entertainment, information and learning that no one – not Dylan, not Edison, not Shakespeare – could have imagined
â€œWe run the risk of unfairly suppressing the 99 percent of great content online for fear of the one percent that breaks the rules.â€? 33
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ir Ken Robinson has spent three decades getting to grips with the nature of creativity, since his first major work, 1982’s The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice and Provision became a key text in international education. His 2006
TED Talk on how schools kill creativity is the most watched in the lecture series’ history, with over eight million views. There’s nobody better placed to address the pleas of educators, business leaders and individuals looking for answers to the fundamental question: “Not why creativity matters, but what it is,” as Robinson himself puts it. His 2009 book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, is a compendium of narratives in which people find their way to an occupational sweet spot where their natural talent and passions merge. Through these tales of self-discovery – told by everyone from Sir Paul McCartney to Arianna Huffington – Robinson draws an outline of creativity’s true form. But the big reveal is saved for Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, a twenty-first-century survival guide first published a decade ago and now updated to reflect the rapid advance of technology. Here, Robinson posits two critical home truths: creativity is more vital than ever; yet our understanding of it has never been more blurred. “It still amazes me how often people will say, ‘Creativity in the arts’, as if it’s
a compound noun,” he explains from his Los Angeles home. “Very often people associate creativity with a particular part of an organisation. They’ll think it’s about design, advertising or marketing.” This is a mistake. The ‘Creative’ department – which segregates the ‘creatives’ from the ‘suits’ – isn’t just vocational apartheid, says Robinson, but a debilitating untruth. ‘As anyone in the corporate world knows, it’s very easy to be ‘typed’ early in your career,’ he writes in The Element. ‘When this happens it becomes exceedingly difficult to make the most of your other – and perhaps truer – talents.’ The inability to tap our own creative potential, whether in finance or fine art, is the culmination of a journey which, according to Robinson, starts at school. As such, he’s calling for a ‘learning revolution’ – a radical overhaul of an industrial-era model that fails to foster, or appreciate, the full diversity of human talent. “Our education systems are facing backwards not forwards,” he says. “It’s a huge irony that people come out of education feeling less creative than they did going in.”
Sir Ken Robinson has spent his life grappling with the fundamental question: what is creativity? Here, he offers Think Quarterly a vital insight into the answer. W ORD S B Y
Andrea Kurland Deanna Halsall
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Failing to appreciate the true nature of creativity has wider ramifications, too. “Often the culture of organisations inhibits creativity, because to be creative requires certain things,” says Robinson. “It requires you to take risks, and if people are worried that doing something unusual will prejudice their progress through the organisation, they’ll step back. The issues are partly conceptual – misunderstandings about what this is and why it matters – and they’re partly cultural. If organisations don’t understand the dynamics of the creative process, they’ll wish for innovation to happen when the conditions for it to flourish don’t exist.” If we’re to learn to cultivate creativity in a systemic way, definitions are a good place to start. “Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value,” explains Robinson. In Out of Our Minds he goes even further, breaking down creativity as several interwoven processes: the first is generative (‘It may begin with a thought that is literally half-formed’); and the second is evaluative (‘At the right time 36 THINK CREATIVITY
“You want to free up the abilities of everybody to contribute ideas, because everybody has ideas, and you need to create a climate in which that will happen. The role of a creative leader is not ‘command and control’, it’s more like ‘climate control’.”
and in the right way, critical appraisal is essential. At the wrong point, it can kill an emerging idea’). But on whose shoulders does it fall to get the balance right? Is creativity fostered from the top down? “There are some things we know about leadership which tend to inhibit creative thinking,” says Robinson. “Leaders can perpetuate problems when they try and control everything and remove the discretion of people in their organisation. What you want to do is free up the abilities of everybody to contribute ideas, because everybody has ideas, and you need to create a climate in which that will happen. The role of a creative leader is not ‘command and control’, it’s more like ‘climate control’. You create a culture.” In an age where corporations can be supplanted by more nimble start-ups, how does one go from machine-like monolith to adaptive hub of innovation? “The big shift is about recognising that human communities – whether a company, a school, a family or a neighbourhood – at their best are organic, and organisms
are highly dynamic and evolutionary,” says Robinson, who’s steered both government bodies and Fortune 500 companies into more creative seas. “It’s about getting people to shift from this broadly mechanical metaphor they have in their heads for organisations to one that’s much more naturalistic.” When the time comes to negotiate that leap, it’s also important not to go to extremes. ‘Creativity does not always require freedom from constraints or a blank page,’ writes Robinson, ‘great work often comes from working within formal constraints.’ If the first stage of leading a culture of innovation is acknowledging that ‘organisations are not mechanisms and people are not components’, stage two is accepting that there’s no quick fix. “There are all kinds of things that will get in the way of creativity, but there is no guaranteed formula for making it happen,” says Robinson. He continues: “Very often people are looking for silver bullets: ‘How do we do it?’ There are rules and conventions you can learn from the past, but the great thing with creativity is there is always a chance you can come up with something completely different that no one has ever thought of before, and there is no set formula to get to that. It’s about recognising that this isn’t just about efficiency. It’s about a frame of mind. It’s a state of possibility that people have to engage with.” Embracing this state of possibility is more critical now than ever. Changing how we think about innovation isn’t a luxury, says Robinson, but an economic imperative: “The world that I grew up in is nothing at all like the world we live in now. The balance of trade is shifting. Manufacturing is being distributed. More people than ever before are working with their heads and their minds. Technology has created entirely new dynamics, whole new industries, whole new forms of competition. And the rate of change means people have to innovate much more rapidly to keep pace. If you don’t keep up, you’re going to go bust. That’s not a theory.”
“There are all kinds of things that will get in the way of creativity, but there is no guaranteed formula for making it happen. This isn’t just about efficiency. It’s about a frame of mind. It’s a state of possibility that people have to engage with.”
In both books, Robinson highlights population growth and technology as key triggers of social change: ‘Many of the challenges we face are being generated by the powerful interaction of these forces.’ Today, he references British sociologist Raymond Williams, whose book, The Long Revolution, analyses cultural shifts through a holistic lens: “If you look at a culture, whether it’s a community, a country, a company or a family, you can talk about different aspects of it. You can talk about legal systems, moral systems; you can talk about forms of behaviour; you can talk about family structure; you can isolate all the different bits of it, like you’re dissecting a brain. But the way you experience a culture is not how these things are separate, but how they all affect each other, how they all wrap around each other and become part of a whole.” It’s only when we start to appreciate the complex nature of cultural change that we begin to understand why creativity – the ability to react, adapt and recreate – is absolutely critical, especially as bigger challenges come hurtling into view. Because with every obstacle comes the opportunity for renewal: “On the one hand, technology has created the need for innovation,” says Robinson, “but it has also created the means for it. What all these things are contributing to is a shift of consciousness. With climate change, for example, people are sensing that we’re doing something stupid with the planet and we have to rethink our relationship to it. People are becoming more aware of the risks that we’re running as a species and are beginning to wake up and realise that a lot of the dangers we face are the result of shortsighted innovations – that we need to think more deeply and see more clearly. “The real hope for the future comes from the ground up, not from the top down,” he concludes. “That’s why I spend so much of my time encouraging people to believe in their own creative powers. They need to take responsibility for their own lives. They need to get involved and think differently, and new technologies are a tremendous means of doing that. I am always optimistic when I think of how much human beings have achieved.” 37
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YouTube’s New Era YouTube is undergoing the most profound shift in its history – licensing original programming from new creative partners. Its mission is to transform all of us into active participants in TV culture. W OR D S B Y
Tetsuhiko Endo George Myers
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he sweeping subdivisions of San Bruno, California, are sandwiched between the city of San Francisco and its airport. There is a shopping mall at its heart and a highway through its belly. Toward its western edge, perched atop a gentle hill overlooking a nondescript business park, sits the world headquarters of YouTube. Though outwardly unassuming, inside it’s a hive of activity, as befits the largest video archive in the world. Many of the several hundred people who work here are imbued with a distinct sense of purpose, as if by handling more footage each month than the three major American television networks created in their first 60 years
of business, they form part of a greater movement whose possibilities are only just beginning to come into focus. There is no historical precedent for the scope or creative potential that exists in YouTube’s vast digital databanks, but there is a literary one. In 1941, Jorge Luis Borges published the short story, The Library of Babel, which describes an infinite library that holds an infinite number of books containing every possible combination of letters. The library, as Borges wrote, was a repository of ‘everything’. YouTube isn’t that large, but it’s growing every second. “YouTube is a reflection of our entire pop culture,” says the platform’s Trends Manager Kevin Allocca. “Almost anything that happens in the world plays out, in some way, on YouTube.” Think back to three of the largest news events of 2011 – the tsunami in Japan, the
Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement. What kinds of images come to mind? “In our memories, those things play out on mobile phone cameras and YouTube videos,” says Allocca, seemingly a little surprised by the notion himself. In other words, you’ve already started to see the world through YouTube, even if you’ve never logged on to the site. very minute, 60 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube. That means every day of real time contains almost a year of YouTube time submitted from countries around the world. This fact was given stunning clarity by Sundance favourite Life in a Day, which saw 41
Hollywood heavyweights Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald compile and cut 4,500 hours of user-submitted videos from 192 different countries into a globe-spanning account of a single day on earth. Co-branded with YouTube, it’s a creation that uniquely reflects the platform. At just over two hours, it is much less than a day, but in its scope and communal effort much more, too. It is candid, yet fantastical: this is how real people experience a day, but not how a single real person could ever experience a day. It is also a neat metaphor for the core creative strength of the platform – interactive communities. “For the last 150 years, anything outside of our immediate experience we learned about through mass media,” says Frank Rose. Rose is a contributing editor at Wired magazine and author of The Art of Immersion: How the digital generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories. His book deals with the new ways in which consumers want to be engaged, and touches on everything from computer games to ad campaigns. “That was a very powerful thing, but it’s even more powerful when it becomes something that people can create themselves… It means that you’re not necessarily dependent on other people to tell you what’s going on.” A girl in California doesn’t just watch music videos, she choreographs them. A young man in Egypt doesn’t witness riots in Tahrir Square, he captures them on his smartphone, potentially creating millions more witnesses in the process. These people are active content consumers. Not satisfied to simply observe media like their exclusively television-raised, passive parents, they want to be a part of it: to touch it, feel it, add to, subtract from and shape it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they are compelled to share it. “These communities are responding to each other,” says Professor Gary Edgerton. Edgerton is a media scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and author of the book, The Columbia History of American Television. “Someone makes a video, then others respond to it or remix it in some way. That is a different kind of entertainment. There isn’t an analogue from 50 or 100 years ago. It’s a brave new world.” 42 THINK CREATIVITY
“Communities are responding to each other. Someone makes a video, then others respond to it or remix it in some way. That is a different kind of entertainment. There isn’t an analogue from 50 or 100 years ago. It’s a brave new world.”
“One of the things that has developed in tandem with the growth of YouTube is that pop culture is now a participatory thing rather than a passive thing,” says Allocca. In this culture, what people are participating in is often secondary to the act of participation itself. “It could be almost anything,” he asserts. “Every time a new movie comes out, for instance, there is always a ton of activity around it, whether people are watching trailers or making their own trailers. “The royal wedding is a good example. People are watching the wedding, they’re making their own videos of it, they’re watching the T-Mobile version of the wedding [which spoofed legendary YouTube video ‘JK Wedding Entrance’, replacing a real couple with royal lookalikes dancing their way down the aisle. The ad racked up over 25 million views and earned a spot in Ad Age’s Top Viral Advertising Campaigns of 2011]. It’s not enough to just watch the event. You become a part of it by enjoying other takes on it, other points of view. And that trend extends to all parts of culture. The thing about YouTube and participatory pop culture is that you feel as much ownership of something becoming popular as the person who created it.” For a brand, the result can be a significant increase in the effectiveness of its communications. Delivering the keynote speech at CES in January, Robert Kyncl, Vice President of TV and Entertainment at Google, highlighted the example of Coca-Cola, which embraced the creative potential of YouTube in 2011. Coke’s official videos received over 30 million views last year, but that was only a fraction of its online presence. By encouraging users to create their own content inspired by its work, Coke-related videos racked up 120 million views. “By allowing fans to incorporate its brand in their work, Coke is amplifying its message and expanding its reach for free,” explained Kyncl. “And doing it in a way that’s both authentic and impossible on TV today.” The sociological alchemy that underlies the process of something ‘going viral’ continues to perplex new media scholars. “What’s most fascinating to me about it is just that it occurs in the first place – it’s
an emergent happening,” says Rose. “We are used to ad campaigns and publicity campaigns, and we are used to incredible resources and incredible amounts of money being used to make people go see a movie or vote for a candidate. But the idea that it can happen automatically is almost magical. It shows that there is a whole different kind of programming that people will respond to that is not like TV. It’s unbridled creativity that doesn’t follow the rules and doesn’t do what you are taught to expect from watching TV for years and years. It’s really powerful and important.” n what is perhaps the most profound shift in its short history, YouTube is now hoping to take the interactive ethos that it has pioneered in pop culture and make it work in professional programming. By licensing original content from newly signed creative partners including Madonna, comedian Amy Poehler and spiritual doctor Deepak Chopra, YouTube hopes to transform the way in which we relate to visual media. Anthony Zuiker, creator of the hit TV series CSI, has signed on with a channel called BlackBoxTV that will focus on sci-fi, horror and thriller content. No stranger to the world of interactivity and immersion, one of Zuiker’s first YouTube projects was a ‘digi-novel’ in 2009 that used video clips to advance the plot between chapters. “We need to get BlackBoxTV off the ground before we deal with interactivity, so stage one is original content, but stage two is going to be about reinventing the medium,” he says. “We are seeing a convergence in all mediums of storytelling and it’s really exciting. We’re not just looking at more specific content, but also a level of interactivity that is going to be the future of content consumption going forward.” The interactivity he’s alluding to has already happened organically for some television shows. Zuiker points to Lost; a series that encouraged its fan base to interact with the mysteries presented onscreen. “[Fans] would take scenes from eight seasons of the show and stream them together in one video to show what was happening second-by-second in the 44 THINK CREATIVITY
“We are seeing a convergence in all mediums of storytelling and it’s really exciting. We’re not just looking at more speciﬁc content, but also a level of interactivity that is going to be the future of content consumption going forward.”
initial plane crash that occurs in the pilot episode, often with split screens to watch things that happened simultaneously. It shows the depths of people’s fascinations and the ability of people to indulge those fascinations,” he says. But Zuiker is also quick to confirm that increased interactivity does not mean the death of traditional storytelling: “I think there will always be original, linear content but what it’s going to turn into is the integration of more usergenerated content like multiple endings, or plot suggestions that are contributed interactively and create a daily experience that offers the option to consume linearly but also to ‘gamify’ content in a way that is perfectly apropos with the device you are consuming it on. I want to tell stories that are ‘5D’ in terms of interactivity.” nline series are only the tip of the iceberg. At the Dance@Live final on a blistering Saturday in September, hundreds of hip-hop dancers from Asia, Europe and North America crammed into a club on Tokyo’s waterfront to compete against each other. What was
striking was the similarities in their styles and repertoires. In a 2010 TED Talk, the filmmaker Jonathan Chu said: “Dancers have created a whole global laboratory online. Kids in Japan are taking moves from a YouTube video created in Detroit, building on it within days and releasing a new video, while teenagers in California are taking the Japanese video and remixing it to create a whole new dance style.” In a subsequent speech, TED curator Chris Anderson called this an example of ‘crowd-accelerated innovation’. Many niche subcultures have benefited from the phenomenon, but the YouTube team in San Bruno are more interested in how the same principles can be applied to much larger audiences. “There is this incredible opportunity for YouTube not just to be an archive of the human experience, but also to be this really wonderful knowledge centre,” says
Angela Lin, head of YouTube Education, which started as a volunteer project and has since grown into over 700 channels of educational content. “Not only has it become a teaching aid,” says Lin, “but we have seen a large growth in peer-to-peer learning. Seeing someone do something, even if it’s in another country, compels you to do better or build off that, whether it’s dancing or medicine.” Borges’ Library of Babel drove many of its inhabitants to depression or hysteria because it was too large and all encompassing to understand. But how-
ever daunting YouTube appears today, it will only come more clearly into focus as we begin to realise its creative potential. It may be an archive of human experiences, but it is also shaping the experiences we’ll have in the future. Adrienne Russell, an Assistant Professor of Digital Media Studies at the University of Denver, believes that we will inevitably come to understand the medium better as our media consumption habits change. “People are creating new genres of broadcast media: responding, mixing, creating memes, etc.,” she says. “All of these examples point to engagement really shifting the way people see themselves and the way they engage in public life. It’s not like voting or going door-to-door and having someone sign a petition. It makes a much richer environment for all of us on a societal level.”
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P o tt e r ’ s P ro t e c t o r David Heyman is the British producer who successfully shepherded JK Rowling’s wizarding franchise through a decade of record-breaking on-screen success. The key, he says, was striking a blockbuster balance between commerce and creativity. W ords by
early 2004, when still in post-production on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, producer David Heyman met with director Mike Newell to discuss the next movie in the Potter franchise, The Goblet of Fire. The men were in agreement on just about everything. There was only one snag: Voldemort’s nose. Heyman wanted Voldemort, on-screen for the first time courtesy of award-winning thespian Ralph Fiennes, to appear without his nose. It was a nod to JK Rowling’s description of the Dark Lord having, ‘a nose that is as flat as a snake’s with slits for nostrils.’ Newell disagreed. They were paying for Fiennes, complete with nose, and not for an actor with a digital hole in the middle of his face. “It became a huge debate, literally for months, about Ralph Fiennes’ nose,” explains the 50-year-old Heyman, who has since become – thanks mostly to the Potter franchise – The Most Successful British Producer of All Time (the series has made almost £5 billion at the box office). Naturally, Heyman won the battle, the nose was removed, and Fiennes’ characterisation became one of the defining portraits of blockbusting villainy. And yet, adds Heyman, the clash with Newell is emblematic of the Potter screen story, and how every step in the eight-movie journey has been about nurturing the core of Rowling’s source novels, and making sure that they arrive on screen in the most faithful form possible. “It was always about
Kevin Maher |
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communicating the essence of the story,” he says, “doing it clearly and protecting it along the way.” To understand this better, Heyman says that we need to flashback to Soho in 1996. There, he is newly returned from Los Angeles after making the hit urban drama Juice, and sitting down to a dreary Monday morning ideas meeting. He’s told about a book from the ‘Low Priority’ shelf called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. He doesn’t like the title, but is intrigued by the ‘wizard school’ premise. He takes it home that night. And, of course, he falls in love. “When I read it I was reminded in some way of reading books when I was a child,” he recalls. “It was about a school. It featured teachers that I felt I knew. And characters – the Rons and the Hermiones – that I knew from my world. Beneath all the magic and fantasy, what I connected to was something very tangible.” His ‘first look’ deal with Warner Bros (they paid for his office, in return he showed them possible projects) meant that the studio was eventually persuaded to close the deal on the book rights in 1998. It’s rumoured that Warners paid Rowling $2 million. Heyman scoffs: “I can tell you that it was considerably less than that. And though I won’t tell you what it was exactly, I can say that it was a good deal.” Almost immediately, of course, creative nurturing became creative protection. Warners, an American studio, wanted their adaptation to relocate Hogwarts to the US. “That was something that I was vehement
in my opposition to,” says Heyman, “because I felt part of the pleasure of Harry Potter was its cultural specificity, even though the stories are universal.” After that battle was won, it was about hiring the right screenwriter. Heyman went completely leftfield, choosing an untested and mostly un-commercial writer in Steve Kloves. Again, eyebrows were raised. “But what I liked about him was his ability to preserve an author’s voice in a screenplay,” says Heyman. “He did it with Michael Chabon’s voice in Wonder Boys and I knew he could do it with Jo Rowling’s voice for us.” And it wasn’t just Kloves, either. Heyman says that every person chosen for the Potter experience was a leader in their field. “Stuart Craig, our production designer, has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and won three. He’s a visionary!” In fact, he says, the real key to Potter’s creative success was the wider team, and not any one individual artist. “Surround yourself with people who are ambitious for their art, and determined to be the best that they can be,” he says. “It’s fundamental.” A decade on, Potter has transformed Heyman’s professional life in immeasurable ways, and yet it brought with it the possibility that he might forever be known simply as ‘Mr Harry Potter’ and not a diverse producer in his own right. Heyman shrugs. “The responsibility is mine to make films that might be mentioned in the same breath as Harry Potter,” he says. “But you know what? If I’m only known for Harry Potter alone, that’s not too bad, is it?” 47
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At communications agencies, the creative process is forever evolving. By borrowing a page from the tech industry playbook, it can get even faster, smarter and more efficient. Welcome to the age of agile creativity. Wo rd s by
Torrence Boone, Cecelia Wogan-Silva, Blair Dore | I LLU S TR ATI O N b y Paul Willoughby he goals of advertising might not have changed in the last 60 years – build a trusted and consistent brand image; shift people’s perceptions and behaviours; create work that surprises and delights – but the tools of the trade have exploded. Art and copy have a new partner, technology, and it’s revolutionising every part of the communications business. Whether it’s through increased access to superfast broadband, the emergence of HTML5, or the development of more sophisticated APIs, technology is enabling creativity in ways that admen of the past (and some of those in the present) couldn’t have imagined. It allows us to mine the insights and imagination of today’s consumers, transforming the traditional advertising monologue into a real-time, constantly evolving conversation online. This may be game-changing, but it’s also insomniainducing. Many of the ad execs we’ve spoken to lie awake at night asking themselves, ‘How can I make great advertising in this new, consumer-driven, multichannel, fast-paced context?’ At Google, we believe the answer can be found in the Silicon Valley playbook. 49
The Age of Agile Creativity The technology industry teaches us that we need to be ready to fail fast. It’s better to know what doesn’t work quickly and cheaply rather than invest time and resources on concepts that won’t deliver results. This has led many start-ups to adopt the mantra of ‘lean thinking’ alongside a more fluid innovation process. The core idea, as described in Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup, is to set aside the traditional model – where a product is launched fully functional, backed by extensive market research – and adopt principles from lean manufacturing and agile software development. Ries calls the result a ‘minimum viable product’; an early, low-cost and functional version of the idea that allows rapid market entry and evolution of concept. It’s a model that can also help marketers develop campaigns in the digital age. The pace of change in consumer dynamics and technology demands that every aspect of communications becomes more flexible, integrated and efficient. Call it ‘agile creativity’. Winston Binch, Chief Digital Officer at Deutsch LA, captured these new realities when he wrote, ‘Most advertising is still oriented around a ‘launch and leave it’ philosophy – an idea that is contrary to product development best practices. As marketers and agencies get deeper into platform and app development, it’s important that our thinking and processes shift. We need to work, get things to market and learn faster. Do it cheaper, leaner and more collaboratively. Find ways to operationalise hacking and experimentation.’ Get it right, and agile creativity is a winning formula: product and brand communications are not only easier and faster to execute, but more targeted and effective – ultimately leading to deeper brand connections and increased sales
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velocity. How do we do that? By taking on board three key lessons: start fast, listen and learn, and work collaboratively.
Draft an MVB The agile creative process begins with a ‘minimum viable brief ’ (MVB). This dynamic document offers a skeleton framework of insight and inspiration, covering only as much as it needs to. It esteems smaller building blocks in addition to the ‘big idea’, allowing creatives and planners to get out of the gate quickly and iterate aggressively. Like a traditional creative brief, it starts with a clear and concise articulation of a campaign’s core objectives and success criteria. What’s the goal? Who is the target audience? Why should they care? What does success look like? But rather than remain static, the MVB can change based on new insights and consumer reactions. It is less concerned with ‘getting it right’ than ‘getting it real’. Gathering data and insights online is a key part of developing and evolving the MVB. Traditional consumer-testing methodologies such as focus groups and large-scale longitudinal surveys can be valuable, but they’re often expensive and time-consuming. Consider cheaper and more nimble approaches instead. From online behavioural and sentiment analysis, to robust insight tools like Radian6, EvoApp, Google Insights for Search and YouTube Trends Dashboard, there is now a multitude of ways to glean consumer insights.
Listen to the Crowd Ideally, the MVB guides development of not just one concept or prototype, but a number of them. Digital tools let us quickly mock up ideas, then test
assumptions and gauge audience reactions in real time. Indeed, agile creativity allows for a change in strategy even after launch. Ask yourself: who is actually listening? Do our insights match reality? What is gaining traction? Did we define success correctly? Were we too ambitious – or not ambitious enough? The next step is to zero in on what’s working and pursue bigger bets based on what was successful. Adapt and respond. Play to your strengths. There are a number of ways of realising the MVB in practice. By looking at web traffic data, a luxury chocolate company discovered that while they expected their audience to be wealthy men, it actually skewed towards less affluent females. They were able to co-opt demand from consumers in their actual audience and more relevantly target this extended group. At Google, we launched an experimental campaign on YouTube called ‘Search On’ before airing it to a broader audience on a different medium. After putting a few fully baked executions out there and seeing what people responded to, the popularity of one particular ad, Parisian Love – a contemporary romance told through search results – helped us choose it to run during the 2010 Super Bowl. This type of decision used to be made in a relative vacuum; here it was guided by public feedback and real-world testing. And the process paid off; the week after the game, it ranked as the seventh most popular Super Bowl ad on the web, with nearly three million views according to Visible Measures. And it had the fifthmost comments of any Super Bowl ad that year; 4,162 across more than 200 sites, meaning it spurred people to engage. When the Nordstrom Innovation Lab wanted to make an iPad app to help customers pick a pair of sunglasses, they sent a software team in-store for a week. This agile ‘flash-build’ allowed them to get customer feedback as they worked, testing features in a real-time, real-world
â€œWe need to work, get things to market and learn faster. Do it cheaper and leaner.â€? 51
Deeplocal built a prototype for the Nike Livestrong Chalkbot in one week â€“ here is the finished product in action at the 2009 Tour de France
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Photography by Deeplocal
environment. By responding within minutes to user testing, the team was able to overcome potential roadblocks and identify what customers really wanted. Insight tools can also be used to create feedback loops once a campaign or product is in-market. As we accumulate new data and insight, we can integrate it much more dynamically for dramatic campaign results. PepsiCo is a case in point, going so far as to build a ‘Mission Control Centre’ inside Gatorade’s Chicago headquarters. This room, positioned in the middle of the marketing department, is outfitted with dashboards and data visualisations that track the brand in real time across social media. Speaking to Mashable, Gatorade’s Senior Marketing Director Carla Hassan revealed how quickly the team is able to react to this data. After seeing that a commercial featuring a song by rap artist David Banner was being heavily discussed in social media, they got a full-length version of the song online within 24 hours. She added that PepsiCo increased engagement with its product education content (mostly video) by 250 percent and reduced its exit rate from 25 percent to nine percent by optimising based on performance.
Pick the Right Players Agile creativity is like improvisational theatre. Everyone needs to work together throughout – copywriters, art directors, brand planners, technologists and developers. At an agency, this requires a small, flat structure, and a team empowered to launch and iterate with both fast internal approval and, more importantly, a client that’s ready and willing to play along. After the proverbial curtain goes up, teams are challenged to react to cues from the audience and unfurl a compelling narrative in real time. They have to be game for anything – thinking across scenarios, media and platforms from the start. It involves constant experimentation and exploration. Building blocks may accrue to bigger, more
“In improv, actors tacitly agree upon the truth of a scene and stay consistent throughout. In marketing, we must establish our core values up front and remain authentic, even if we uncover new insights about them as the project unfolds.”
transformative ideas. Messing up is part of the process. For their ‘digital experiment’, #30Days2Beta, Deutsch LA collapsed the time frame between concepting and execution, taking a single month to build a new web, tablet and mobile platform while broadcasting a live video feed and tweeting as they worked. According to a post from Executive Creative Technology Director Trevor O’Brien, ‘We had an initial concept that we started with and then we put a team together to bring it to life [with] UX, Design, Tech and Production all in a room together for the duration of the project. It’s a very collaborative approach with all of us commenting on different aspects of what each other is working on. And because of [our] proximity, we can be faster and make decisions as a team. Our belief is that great digital is a team sport, and that means getting all the right people together around a table and dedicating them to the project.’ Thanks to Deeplocal’s tiny but diverse staff of artists, engineers, roboticists and illustrators, they were able to build a prototype for the Nike Livestrong Chalkbot in just a single week. The result, a machine that wrote out online messages in chalk on the road of the Tour de France, won a Cannes Lions Grand Prix award in 2010. Despite the ever-increasing need for flexibility, brand-building is still about consistency. In improv, actors tacitly agree upon the truth of a scene and stay consistent throughout. In marketing, we must establish our core values up front and remain authentic, even if we uncover new insights about them as the project unfolds. And of course, like any great improv show, a great ad campaign has to surprise and delight. That’s always been true, but it’s harder now than ever before. Today’s fragmented, info-flooded, seenit-all audiences are a tough crowd. But by starting fast, listening and learning, and working collaboratively, agencies are creating campaigns that win them over. And execs can finally sleep at night. Sure, everything may change in the morning – but that’s the whole point 53
Sir John Hegarty, Worldwide Creative Director of BBH, has been at the forefront of advertising for four decades. But as the digital world reshapes the industry, his latest challenge might just be the biggest ever: to change the way the industry does business and open up the creative workspace. Matt Bochenski P HO TOG R APH Y by Mark Leary i nt erview by
here are two black sheep in Sir John Hegarty’s office in Soho, London. One of them is literal – a stuffed animal inspired by BBH’s first ad for Levi’s, which gave birth to a corporate logo and a typically catchy slogan: ‘When the world zigs, zag’. The other sits at a desk scattered with the detritus of a 40-year career (framed images from successful ads; D&AD Yellow Pencil; CLIO award holding multicoloured wristbands), sporting trademark checked suit and wry smile.
Hegarty is the old sage of British advertising – responsible for legendary campaigns for the likes of Audi (‘Vorschprung durch Technik’ was his idea), British Airways and Johnnie Walker, as well as Levi’s, Sprite and Google. But as digital technology ushers in a new era for the ad industry, he shows no sign of slowing down and letting younger men take over. Indeed, Hegarty seems reinvigorated by the demands of the digital age. This last act of his career may just be the most profound. 55
“Creativity challenges technology; technology inspires creativity. One of the things technology has done is democratise creativity – put it into the hands of more people. That’s an ongoing process that we can’t change. Why would we want to change it? That’s its power.”
Think Quarterly: As digital tools become creatively empowering, what will the ad industry look like in the future? Sir John Hegarty: My big view of it is that the world is moving towards entertainment. As we become richer – relatively speaking – entertainment becomes the thing we want most. So a medium that is about entertainment is a medium that will inherit the future. Right now, digital is still really an information medium. That will change but we’re still in the very, very early days of it. Are these tools already beginning to change the creative process? They certainly are. Creativity challenges technology; technology inspires creativity. One of the amazing things technology has done is democratise creativity – it’s put it into the hands of more and more people, and I think that’s an ongoing process that we can’t change. Why would we want to change it? I think that’s its power. 56 THINK CREATIVITY
Does that mean that traditionally creative companies like BBH are going to be threatened? I don’t think so because I still think advertising is 20 percent idea and 80 percent execution. It’s knowing what ideas are going to be great. It’s knowing how to make those ideas. I always love that great quote, ‘We’re all artists, it’s just that some of us shouldn’t exhibit’. Just because everybody can do it isn’t to say they should. I get very annoyed when people say to me, ‘We can crowdsource!’ No, we can’t. Anybody can do it? No! I don’t think they can. Everybody can dance, everybody can sing, everybody can play tennis, everybody can kick a football: are they any good at it? No, not necessarily. I went to art school. I trained, I tried, I had to work at it. I think the idea that you can just pick up a pencil and do it is nonsense. What are some of the challenges of technology?
You have to be fearless. Fearlessness is fundamentally important to creativity because you’re putting ideas in front of people that they haven’t seen before. It’s creative destruction. The people who make the big changes, the big leaps, are the ones who actually disparage the technology – ‘I don’t care about that; I want to do this…’ And suddenly the technology goes, ‘Hmm, okay, I’ll find a way of doing it.’ What you need is somebody who understands the technology working with somebody who has the ideas. Not dissimilar to the film industry, where you have a director who’s got this big vision and a camera operator or DP saying, ‘I can make it happen if we do it like this...’
Digital technology is changing the way you work, and you believe the workspace itself must also evolve, is that right? Increasingly, we’re looking at a world where ideas are fundamentally important, one in which creativity is going to be central to the future of our economy. The question is: how do you engender that? How do you actually increase creative activity? I look at the environment. If you go back 30, 40, 50 years and look at the office, it was a very austere place – desks were in formal lines and you had to work until a bell sounded. Gradually, we loosened that up because we want people to be freer, we want employees to think more and we want them to enjoy what they’re doing. We brought in potted plants and furniture designers. Today, we have coffee bars where people can mingle and exchange thoughts and ideas. But there has been another fundamental shift: many people don’t want to work at one job all the time. They want to work for three or four months of the year, take a couple of months off and go somewhere, look at something, read something, do something – enrich their lives in some way. Our traditional, formal way of employing people runs counter to the way they want to work. But I don’t want to lose talented people at BBH simply because we
“I want to make the workplace somewhere that you positively want to be; somewhere that grows your experience of life and grows your creativity rather than sucks it out of you. A workplace that achieves that is the future.”
can’t accommodate their creative impulses. As both working life and the office itself become less structured, I see an alternative vision: the office as a members’ club. The club is run by a core of senior executives who organise it. Rather than a traditional employee, you’re a member, available to work on projects. As you only get paid when you work, if you want to go to Tibet for three months to study that’s okay – there’ll be another project waiting when you return. I want to loosen up the process and make the workplace somewhere that you positively want to be; somewhere that is stimulating and invigorating, where you meet different people and encounter different ideas; somewhere that grows your experience of life and grows your creativity rather than sucks it out of you. A workplace that achieves that is the future. What is the role of process, oversight and management in this future? Of course, you can’t operate without
process. The trouble in large companies is that process takes over as you struggle to make the machine work. But in a club, the permanent members – the senior executives – are the ones who operate the process and make it work. Those people are dedicated to it, freeing up the other members to come and go as they please. In turn, those members have to be given flexibility and have to be allowed to fail. As long as you’ve done all the things that you should do, if something fails, we’ll accept that. It’s going to happen. It must happen if you’re going to be constantly pushing the edges of the envelope. Can you really achieve this at BBH? Well, we’re trying. But the truth is, I’m not sure BBH can do it. I think the next generation will have to do that. We’re, in a way, too tied to what we are – and that’s alright; that’s where creative destruction comes in. It’s up to the next generation to pull things down, look at the industry again, reshape it and reframe it in their image
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PROJ EC T sk anyone to name the greatest television ad of all time and a list of contenders will likely spill out. Ask the same question about, say, banner ads and chances are you’ll meet blank stares. So far, the secret to making a classic internet commercial has remained locked away. To get at it, Google took an approach straight out of a heist film, persuading a team of veteran safe crackers to come out of retirement for one last job. These legendary advertisers would work alongside a team of technical whizz-kids and creatives in an experiment to turn four iconic campaigns into cutting-edge online ads using the kind of technology they couldn’t have dreamed of as younger men. Bob Pasqualina was sanding an antique wooden skiff in his garage in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, when his old partner Howie Cohen called. The pair created the CLIO Hall of Fame television spot ‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing’ for Alka-Seltzer, and hadn’t worked together for 30 years.
Cohen explained that Google wanted them to re-imagine their 1972 ad. “I was far, far removed from the workings of Google and even the computer,” Pasqualina says. But the ad was the biggest moment of their careers and he couldn’t pass up returning to it. He agreed on the spot. Three other legends from advertising’s golden age were also on board: Amil Gargano, the man who launched Volvo in the US with the 1963 ad ‘Drive it like you hate it’; Paula Green, who invented the ‘challenger brand’ concept with Avis’ ‘We Try Harder’; and Harvey Gabor, who dreamed up CocaCola’s iconic 1971 television commercial ‘Hilltop’, in which a global chorus sang, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” They had signed up for Project Re: Brief. “Our purpose was to take a medium that is ignored more than it is loved, and inspire a new generation of creative people to use it to make exceptionally engaging and amazing work,” says Aman Govil, the Product Marketing Manager who led the experiment. “The message that we wanted to get across is that to create great online
advertising, you first need to create great advertising.” The Google team could make these new ads shimmer with technical know-how, but the legends would ensure they had heart. he challenges faced by internet advertising are surprisingly reminiscent of the 1960s. Back then, Paula Green’s boss, Bill Bernbach, co-founder of Dane Doyle Bernbach, waved studies around showing that 85 percent of advertising went unnoticed. “They don’t even hate us,” Bernbach remarked, “they’re just bored with us.” To make people take notice, he put copywriters and art directors in the same room to work on concepts collaboratively. His idea was ‘1+1=3’, and it triggered a creative revolution. Project Re: Brief updates the concept for the digital age by adding technologists to that room. Google came up with the idea after talking about adapting classic ads into banners with New York-based creative
What happens when legendary admen of yesteryear are given cutting-edge digital tools to revisit their greatest moments? If Google’s Re: Brief is anything to go by, you unlock the creative potential of new media advertising. W OR D S B Y ILLUST RAT I O N B Y
D’Arcy Doran Dale Edwin Murray 59
Amil Gargano’s 1963 Volvo ad, ‘Drive it like you hate it’
agency Johannes Leonardo. According to Govil, it evolved after he saw the documentary Art & Copy, about 1970s ad world mavericks. “If we can shift the way the industry approaches building digital advertising, we can come up with amazing work that people will love, remember and share 50 years from now,” he says. Govil decided to capture this techdriven creative process on film, almost like a lab book – a key part of every experiment. That’s when Art & Copy director Doug Pray stepped in. According to Deepak Ramanathan, Google’s Head of Display Marketing, he’s captured a transformation that could be every bit as profound as the shift to colour from black and white, or to 3D from 2D: “This is the third dimension of advertising; it’s immersive and emotive,” he says. Central to the project was how banner ads could interact with the real world; whether cars, telephones, or almost any other device. “An engineer can come into a room and give you a playground that you might not have understood existed before,” says Drew Ungvarsky of Grow Interactive, the Norfolk, Virginia-based digital agency recruited to help shape and execute the campaigns. 60 THINK CREATIVITY
Irv Gordon at the wheel of his Volvo P1800 as it closes in on three million miles
“If we can shift the way the industry approaches digital advertising, we can come up with work that people will love, remember and share 50 years from now... This is the third dimension of advertising; it’s immersive and emotive.”
But the technology was balanced with timeless advertising wisdom. Amil Gargano could have walked straight off the set of Mad Men – a Korean War veteran, he struck out on his own in 1962 to start an agency with only one client. But similarities to Don Draper end there; Gargano left the three-martini lunches to the account men because the creative work absorbed him completely. “If you want to get people’s attention, do something that is evocative, that excites their curiosity to get them into this thing called ‘banner advertising’,” Gargano says. His advice for a new Volvo spot was to look for a human story that captured the car’s durability. When the team found retired teacher Irv Gordon, who had clocked nearly 2.9 million miles in his 1966 auto, Gargano remembers thinking, ‘You’ve just hit it out of the ballpark.’ The next step was to maximise the technology without overshadowing the story – indeed, the tech worked best when it was almost invisible. ‘Magic’ was how Gabor described it in a pitch to CocaCola. Finally, one-by-one, the Re: Brief teams were ready to present their ideas to the brands.
Transforming a vending machine into a global communications tool for Coca-Cola
or Volvo, they pitched an interactive timeline telling the story of Irv Gordon’s life through his car’s journey. GPS technology and Google+ would allow people to follow his car as it closed in on the three-million-mile mark. The Alka-Seltzer concept returned to the story of Ralph, who sat on his bed half a century ago and exclaimed, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Only this time, we pick up the action a little earlier in the day, finally discovering exactly what got poor Ralph into such a spot in the first place. Each piece of content is customised to the person viewing the ad at any given moment, from time, location, weather, music and even small details like specific newspapers or sports teams. The Avis ad, meanwhile, allows customers to write stories about their experiences with the brand, and then uses language-processing algorithms, a seemingly limitless bank of audio clips, and images created by illustrators to instantly create a personalised animated 30-second video, which they can then share. The concept for Coca-Cola literally allows you to connect with Coke lovers on
Paula Green invents the ‘challenger brand’ concept for Avis in 1963
“Digital advertising today is often long on engineering but short on passion. We need to change that. The good news is, any brand can make ads like these, and even better ones. You just need to open up to the possibilities.”
the other side of the world. The banner lets the sender record a message that is beamed onto a screen on a vending machine. Forty years after the original campaign, it delivers on that promise to ‘buy the world a Coke and keep it company.’ Coca-Cola is already discussing how it can roll out the concept globally. “It’s the most innovative display ad, if you can even call it that, I’ve ever seen,” enthuses CocaCola Creative Director Jackie Jantos. Google is presenting the campaigns to the advertising industry, along with Pray’s documentary, to spur a discussion about the future. “Digital advertising today is often long on engineering but short on passion. We need to change that,” Govil says. “The good news is, any brand can make ads like these, and even better ones. You just need to open up to the possibilities.” Job done and the getaway a success, Green says she feels exhilarated. “It rejuvenated me. It brought me into today,” the 84-year-old says. The rest of the team thinks they pulled off the heist, too. And if retired legends, coming in cold, can embrace technology to create great advertising, what can today’s industry leaders do? It’s up to the rest of the advertising world to spawn a series of sequels 61
Data provided by new technologies isnâ€™t just good for marketers; itâ€™s inspiring a new generation of digital artists determined to reshape the way we see the world. Words and images by
Flight Patterns, 2005
Bicycle Built for Two Thousand, 2009
Ten Thousand Cents, 2008
New York Talk Exchange, 2008
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oints of light illuminate a dark screen, erupting like digital fireworks. A clock counts down the nighttime hours towards dawn. At 6am, the darkness erupts into streaks of light chasing each other across the screen. At first, they seem chaotic but gradually the familiar outline of America’s coasts reveal themselves. The country has awoken, the day has begun and thousands of planes have taken to the skies, carrying their passengers in complex traceries represented by an ever-multiplying spiderweb of light. This is Flight Patterns, a visualisation based on airplane location data. It’s visually stunning, but it also tells us something interesting about the country’s working life. Data analysis and visualisation have become indispensable tools in science and business, but in the hands of a new generation of digital artists, data is undergoing a metamorphosis – from a unit of information into a fascinating, beautiful and expressive medium. Artists like Ben Fry, who used US Census data to create All Streets, a visualisation of every road in the continental United States. Like Robert Hodgin, who created the ‘Magnetosphere’ visualiser in iTunes, which uses music as its data source. Or David Bowen, who has created kinetic sculptures using wave data. And Nicholas Felton, who tracks the data generated by his everyday activities – what he eats, who he meets, where he goes – to create beautiful annual reports of his life. These artists are at the forefront of data-driven digital art, yet most of us would agree we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible. Technology is key. Today’s sophisticated sensors allow us to collect more data than ever before, while faster
computers make it easier to process, and new software and programming languages give artists seemingly unlimited options for visualising their work. Projects that were simply inconceivable a few years ago are now being realised, and while you might find the end result in a gallery, digital artists are actually more interested in the web, not just as a forum to display their art, but as a collaborative medium in itself. Since graduating from UCLA’s Design Media Arts programme in 2006, I’ve worked on a number of projects that use data as a medium for artistic expression. I’ve worked with real-world data, not just flight information, but phone calls (New York Talk Exchange) and laser scanners (House of Cards). I’ve also worked with crowdsourced data, including drawings (The Johnny Cash Project) and sound clips (Bicycle Built for 2000). As the head of Google’s Data Arts Team, I also use the web to showcase Google technologies from the perspective of a digital artist. Together with director Chris Milk [see p.28], my team and our agency collaborators have created two interactive music videos built specifically for the Google Chrome browser. The first one, The Wilderness Downtown, uses Google Street View to put the experience in front of any address inputted by the user. The second, Three Dreams of Black, uses a browser technology called WebGL to render interactive 3D worlds for the user to explore while watching the story. This is a ‘magic first, logo second’ approach to marketing: we strive to build amazing experiences that belong in a museum more than a marketing presentation. The Wilderness Downtown, for example, won the Interactive Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011, and later that year was showcased in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Every marketing executive should ask
themselves whether they’re genuinely excited by the work their brand has a hand in creating; if not, how can you expect your audience, who has far less affinity for your brand than you do, to be excited as well? became a data artist because I was interested in using computer simulation in creative ways. When I was in school, artists like Casey Reas and Marius Watz were making works of generative art using code and mathematics to build artificial systems filled with beauty and complexity. Their creations inspired me to work with real-world data, information that’s recognisable to all of us but tells a story that we may not have seen before or gives us a different perspective on the world around us. At its best, data art tells the viewer something new about our culture, how we live our lives and how we see the world. Now we’re set to see an explosion in data art. In the future, everything will share data – our heartbeats will be recordable; everyday appliances like cars and refrigerators will stream data online; if a device processes information of any kind, it will soon have the ability to share it. New types of creativity are waiting to be uncovered by anyone who takes this new technology and uses it to re-think old rules. To become a data artist, all you need is a little bit of practical knowledge and a whole heap of imagination. Look around you: what data is available? Try representing it, somehow, any way you can, even if it’s with pencil and paper. If you’re interested in learning computer programming, download Processing and try some of the tutorials. You’ll be surprised at what you can create, and the new things you’ll see
Google’s Cole Nussbaumer offers a primer on creative data visualisation, the merger of brains and beauty that has taken the marketing world by storm. Words by
Cole Nussbaumer Robert Samuel Hanson
I llustra t i on s by
Use Colour Strategically
Don’t be Misleading
Highlight what’s Important
Colour helps audiences understand where they should focus their attention, so don’t let your graphing application make colour choices for you. Use it sparingly and strategically to highlight the important parts of the data visualisation and story. Keep in mind that around 10 percent of people are colour-blind, which typically means difficulty in distinguishing between shades of red and green.
Context will have an impact on how people interpret the information you’re providing. Don’t graph a sample of data that’s too small to permit real, concrete conclusions. Make sure that the colour and style you’re using aren’t introducing any optical illusions. Provide an appropriate frame of reference. And if you’re using a bar chart, the baseline should be zero; anything else and the story your data is telling will be a deceptive one.
Use visual cues to let your audience know where to devote their attention and what you want to emphasise. Size and colour, which are known as ‘preattentive attributes’ (because the viewer grabs hold of them before focusing attention) are your biggest levers for drawing your audience’s eye and brain. Use them to highlight the most important pieces of your message.
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have a goal in life: to rid the world of bad PowerPoint slides. We’ve all sat through meetings, struggling to stay awake during presentations filled with cheesy stock images, confusing bar graphs, and pie chart after pie chart. This needn’t be so. Even
the driest content can come to life – if it’s presented creatively. At Google, I teach everyone from marketers to engineers some basic principles of data visualisation that help them turn numbers into compelling visual stories. Presenting data creatively can make numbers seem more human and turn
Don’t be a Data Fashion Victim
Simple Beats Sexy
Just because your software has plenty of bells and whistles doesn’t mean they all have to be used. Did you know, for example, that pie charts are extremely difficult for audiences to interpret? Or that 3D graphs not only introduce a lot of visual noise, but also skew the presentation of data so that it’s almost impossible to read accurately? Gridlines, borders, shadowing – these are the data viz equivalents of going off on a tangent. Just like writing or speaking, in data design you want to keep things succinct and to the point. This allows the important message to shine through. A good visual encompasses both brains and creativity.
A complicated visual can turn off an audience if it takes too much effort to understand the information that’s being provided. Strip out anything that doesn’t have informative value and what remains will stand out more. You can eliminate
statistics into stories. By ‘humanising’ data we can make those numbers – and hence the people and companies behind them – more transparent. Here are a few of the most resonant lessons that I teach in ‘Data Visualization 101’ at Google. Consider this your cheat sheet to becoming a more creative data storyteller.
necessary but less important elements by making them small, grey and positioned in ‘lower-attention’ areas like the bottom or right side of your graphic. A good visual is straightforward and tells a clear story. Simple is the new sexy
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Do you work in a creative industry? In the digital age, the answer is ‘yes’, whatever your profession. All you need to do is understand your potential – and then unlock it. Monisha Rajesh ILLU S T R ATI O N S b y Malika Favre W ord s b y
he digital revolution has popped the cork on creativity. Filmmakers no longer need to rely solely on studios to release their movies when YouTube and Vimeo reach an audience of millions. Writers can choose traditional publishers, or newer options like Amazon and eBooks. Musicians can skip six months in a studio for five minutes in a bedroom with a laptop. We have more outlets for creativity than ever before, but how do we harness the tools at our fingertips to make the most of our potential? Does it take a certain type of brain to produce these results, or can we learn to be creative, no matter what field we work in? Dr Robert Root-Bernstein, a physiology professor at Michigan State University, is the co-author of Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People. He believes that creativity can be taught. “Creativity isn’t about problem-solving,” he explains. “Once a problem is well defined, the solution often follows rather directly. In fact, the most creative people are actually the ones who point out where the problems are in the first place, but we don’t teach people how to do this.
“Creativity isn’t restricted to types of profession – it appears in every discipline,” Dr Root-Bernstein continues. “Look at lawyers and accountants. Why did we have the Enron scandal? Why are we having these problems with banks? This is people being creative, looking for loopholes and trying to push boundaries.” In his book, Dr Root-Bernstein describes the creative process as requiring 13 tools that include observing, abstracting, imaging and kinesthetic (i.e. multi-sensory) thinking amongst others. “Like carpenters’ tools, you have to learn when it’s appropriate to use each one,” he says. “Everybody has these tools to some degree but none of them are taught in any curriculum. Observation is key. If you don’t interact with the digital world and you don’t observe what’s going on, then you have no data to work with. Abstracting involves sifting out what’s important and what isn’t. Imaging is remembering what you’ve abstracted out. Kinesthetic thinking involves feeling what a system is like and putting it muscularly into your body. People talk about finding problems by how you ‘feel’. While sitting in a meeting, something might not feel right and you get a knot in your stomach – that is your body telling you
that something doesn’t fit together. People who are creative tend to feel that explicitly. Learn to pay more attention to how your body feels about a problem.” No matter what profession you work in, by applying these tools you can reap rewards. For example, explains Dr RootBernstein, “within the field of engineering, research shows that the best quality for success is visual rather than mathematic ability. But when we train engineers, very few get formal imaging training.” Currently, the internet offers problemsolving platforms such as Bill Gates’ Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which fosters scientific and technological innovation, and invites us to solve key health issues in the developing world. However, Dr Root-Bernstein believes that the next phase of digital creativity will move us from problem-solving to open-source problemfinding. “Grand Challenges involves experts inventing problems to solve. I would love to see online forums where people start debating what the problems are and offer criteria as to why Gates is not addressing the right problem for a disease in Africa. I think we will actually have progress much more quickly [that way].”
ringing together many minds for creative discussion is an idea endorsed by Dr Scott Barry Kaufman, a professor of cognitive psychology at NYU, and co-founder of The Creativity Post, a non-profit web platform that features quality content on creativity, innovation and imagination. “Technology allows a lot more people to contribute to a single pie,” he explains. “A creative person is someone who is curious, open-minded and on the lookout for new patterns of thought. The simple idea is that putting 10 minds with 10 views about something together in one place will immediately [lead to] more creative [discussion].” According to Dr Kaufman, the impact of new digital tools on our creativity is akin to a second cultural ‘big bang’, one that is reshaping not just our world, but also our minds. “The big bang of cultural explosion 10,000 years ago wasn’t a result of bigger brains evolving, but the ability to use new tools,” he explains. “Currently, we are seeing another cultural big bang. Due to the
use interfaces to get everyone involved,” Dr Kaufman explains. “It allows people with autism or schizophrenia to let their own unique abilities shine without anyone having negative expectations based on the label of their disability. [Koblin] has demonstrated how putting together lots of different individual voices can produce a wonderful final product.” There’s still the niggling riposte that technology is dumbing us down, making us lazy and dependent on machines to do our thinking for us. When the argument is put to him, Damon Horowitz, Google’s inhouse philosopher and Director of Engineering, laughs. “Technology itself isn’t dumbing us down – though some of the things we build with technology have that effect,” he says. “Technology is adding to our repertoire. It gives us empowerment over our creativity: not just in terms of computer graphics, animation and visuals, but what is available to us now are languages for expressing complex processes. We didn’t have that before the digital age. “Consider a field like urban planning,” Dr Horowitz
“Technology isn’t dumbing us down. It is adding to our repertoire. It gives us empowerment over our creativity.” use of technologies that allow unprecedented levels of collaboration we can now utilise diverse kinds of minds in ways that we have never seen before. [For instance,] autistic people are currently not well served in traditional education systems, but they have great value to society in terms of their very detail-orientated thinking and a way of seeing the devil in the detail that most other people won’t.” But it’s not just autism. “Schizophrenics possess great synthesising abilities. New research shows that the combination of a schizophrenic frame of mind, coupled with the ability to shift to another mode of thought – such as analytical mode – to test those ideas is crucial to creativity. Developments in the digital age will soon allow people who are not served through regular routes to use these technologies on their own.” Developments like the work of Google data artist Aaron Koblin [see p.62], whose open-source visualisations allow multiple users to contribute to a single project, tapping into the creativity of individuals regardless of their background. “He shows how we can 68 THINK CREATIVITY
continues. “It’s one thing to develop theories about, say, new ways that traffic might flow through a city, roughly based on precedents from previously observed systems. But prior to digital technologies, we lacked a language that could express in great detail exactly how a complex system would work. In the past few decades, we have gained the ability to program models and run simulations, which often reveal unanticipated consequences of our choices. We can see how people actually behave if given new tools – so we can iterate on our ideas instead of just guessing.” Drs Root-Bernstein, Kaufman and Horowitz are all quick to dismiss the distinction between so-called ‘creative’ and ‘non-creative’ industries, but agree that the most creative people tend to be the most passionate. Dr Root-Bernstein emphasises that the key thing is to explore beyond your comfort zone. “Be curious about things you don’t know anything about. Find an interest and develop it. Engage in lifelong learning. The most creative people are scared all the time. Jump off a cliff and have faith that you’re not going to crash.”
Creativity in Action Dr Jay Parkinson is a paediatrician based in New York City committed to using digital technology to unlock the creative potential of healthcare. Here he explains how.
Doctors are not only uncreative but ‘anticreative’. On day one of medical school you realise that there’s a militaristic hierarchy, so you don’t question anything. I’ve always been interested in technology – I started a business during my residency in 2003 taking people’s CDs and converting them into MP3s to load onto their iPods. And in 2007 I started a new, more creative kind of digital practice. I only accepted people from two Zip codes, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Patients had access to my Google calendar so they could see when I was free, then they’d tell me what their symptoms were and send me their address. I’d get an iPhone alert, make a house call and take payment via PayPal. Then we’d follow up by videoconference or email. I had to hack things together to make it work but it was doable enough for a guy like me with no programming training. The response split into two camps: traditional, old-fashioned doctors were, like, ‘Get this punk outta here’. But then I made the cover story of the industry’s trade magazine and there was this sense of, if they’re legitimising me, maybe it’s okay. Today, I have a design firm called The Future Well, which uses creative design and technology to improve health. Our latest initiative is called Sherpaa, and it launched on January 31st with Tumblr. Tumblr’s employees get access to a network of doctors manning phone lines and email. We can use technology to keep an eye on the resources that are available to us: who’s on call? Who doesn’t have a patient and can get on the phone with us right now? We’re creating a microsystem of healthcare as it should be.
Why Didn’t I Think of That? Digital technology creates infinite possibilities for experimentation and creativity. For marketers, this means there’s lots you can do, and lots you wish you did. We asked five members of Google’s Creative Council, a group of creative thinkers from today’s top digital agencies, to tell us about a recent campaign or project that made them envious. 70 THINK CREATIVITY
Chief Strategy Officer/Associate Partner Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Kaiser Chiefs: The Future is Medieval
In a Nutshell: Fan-based social marketing for Kaiser Chiefs’ comeback album
Wieden+Kennedy launched the new Kaiser Chiefs album not by making ads, but by thinking about how technology can re-imagine the concept of the ‘album’ in a music environment increasingly defined by single-track downloads. Fans can create their own album by choosing 10 of the 20 official tracks and designing their own artwork. But the real magic comes by turning these fans into media and retailers. Each is given their own webpage hosting their version of the album alongside social media tools to share it and banner ads for their blog. For every copy they sell, fans receive a pound. It’s a brilliant way for a band to break back onto the scene by harnessing the power of a fan base.
In a Nutshell: A microcontroller board used to build creations with Google’s Voice Search for Desktop
The Verbalizer is one of several ‘experimentmeets-art-meets-communication’ ideas to come out of the talented and curious minds at digital agency Breakfast in Brooklyn. Like many of their other projects, it builds on a popular or emerging technology and adds a new layer to make that technology more fun, more human or accessible – in this instance, encouraging us to think about how we might play with Google Voice Search. I love the fact that there are companies wanting to tease other people’s technology in this way. Some ideas will scale while others may simply act as provocation and inspiration for the rest of us. Either way, it’s the freshest kind of thinking out there.
Chief Innovation Officer Mullen
Chief Creative Officer AKQA
Executive Director of Strategy The Barbarian Group
It Gets Better
Homeplus Virtual Store
Toyota Backseat Driver
In a Nutshell: YouTube messages of support to LGBT youths
In a Nutshell: Tesco brings QR code shopping to South Korea’s subway
In a Nutshell: Gaming app offers kids the sensation of driving the family car
While US columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller posted their first video in September 2010, this YouTube initiative to bring hope and support to LGBT youths really took off in 2011 after video contributions from the likes of Barack Obama and Lady Gaga. By tapping into a collective anger and inviting anyone to join the community to share their message, It Gets Better demonstrated the power of genuine human stories, the impact of video and the remarkable reach that can be achieved by crowdsourcing content. Best of all, it reminded us that in the age of social media you don’t need a lot of money; you just need a good idea.
I hate QR codes. They exemplify everything bad about technology: ugly, clumsy and often fluffy. Tesco’s Homeplus Virtual Store, however, was a different case entirely. By leveraging QR codes on South Korea’s subway, it took what can feel like a clumsy chore and turned it into a convenient process by making shopping extremely accessible while people commute. Every now and then, we see ideas that are creative and innovative. But it’s pretty rare that we see something that is creative, innovative and could be a global game-changer. While this idea is still unproven at a mass scale, it just could be something that pushes us forward into the future.
Now that we all have amazing little computers in our pockets, how are you going to use them creatively to give people a better experience with – or alongside – your product? This is a brilliant use of mobile to enhance time spent driving with the family. Smartphones are the new pacifier on long drives. This app gives kids their own driving game to play in the backseat, mimicking the actual movement of the car through GPS. Today, the best ads are ones you can use, and this is something everyone in the family can appreciate. And since the game can be played in any car – regardless of make or model – it’s also a clever way to sneak the Toyota brand into the backseats of the competition 71
The Creativity issue of Think Quarterly documents this far-reaching transformation, cutting through the noise to focus on the fundamental qu...
Published on May 14, 2012
The Creativity issue of Think Quarterly documents this far-reaching transformation, cutting through the noise to focus on the fundamental qu...