Posted: September 29, 2014, 2:46 p.m.
by Connor Fox.
“Creativity: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”
This basic definition of the term has been interpreted through many different applications over time. While the word is often generically used, creativity is an evolving, relative method. The difference in success and failure has come to rely on a creative edge, and an emerging trend in the industry shows how interdisciplinary approaches make for an effective difference.
Developing engaging content
Like any art form, it takes time and energy to discover one’s creative process to generate content that speaks.
The Creative Circus’ mission is “to graduate the best-prepared, most avidly sought-after creatives in the marketing communications industry.” These creatives include writers, designers, photographers, advertisers, as well as many educators who bring years of industry experience to the students in the program and help them develop engaging work. Executive Creative Director Norm Grey believes there’s more of a connection to advertising and public relations now.
The main commonality between the two disciplines is about creating buzz in an artful way. “In today’s world, advertising and PR are synonymous,” Grey said. “There’s no need for a slash between the two of them.”
Grey said he acts as an arbitrator in his role to students, determining which ideas to develop or discard. This role is essential in learning how to differentiate between effective and ineffective work, as well as building the foundation for idea generation. The success of creativity is learning how to adapt over time and what processes yield the best results in this industry. Grey noted how it could be difficult to prove the effectiveness of work, insisting that many key players in the industry are only interested in the creative thinkers.
“Now, because of social media and everything that is going on in communications, how we measure creativity is somewhat different,” Grey said.
The Creative Circus is just one example of molding a new generation of creatives and visual thinkers. While many of these students might work directly in ad agencies, the idea to work more closely with another discipline is shared through a creative bond.
Crafting effective communication
In a constantly changing environment, awareness and adaptability are key factors in the approach to producing relevant content. One program’s particular approach to this challenge merges disciplines to create an unparalleled experience.
The City College of New York (CCNY) offers a two-year program for a master’s degree in branding and integrated communications. After launching just last year, this up-and-coming program is one of the first of its kind. CCNY Professor Nancy Tag acts as the program’s director and architect. According to Tag, the program’s curriculum ensures a cross-disciplinary approach. All students begin with four foundational courses that share applicable skills to any communications disciplines: research and awareness, strategy, idea development, and experience.
This comprehensive start encourages students, who all bring different backgrounds and perspectives mostly from within the communications industry, to learn from each other. The program not only provides the tools to understanding the modern age of communication practices, but it also teaches you how to think creatively.
“You have to imagine the other parts of the pieces in order to make your piece as good as it can be and fit with the others,” Tag said. “We live in a very immersive world today with mobile technology, [and] the way that we experience any kind of product or story can hit us on many different levels. If it’s not integrated or strategically told, those stories seem very disparate and it doesn’t become a complete story. Creativity is one way of applying storytelling techniques, and a way of being thoughtful in [how] you tactfully build the story.”
But how is this program relevant to the industry? Branding is an art form, just like public relations. The program employs creativity as a method to enhance communication in a strategic way. A successful brand impacts an audience with a story. Many different strategies can be used effectively in communication, but it’s the perspective that determines success.
“We live in story-building era; we don’t live in a storytelling era,” Tag said. “Public relations is part of building stories and not just telling stories — it’s responding to people [and] being receptive to them, but still maintaining control.”
Executing the creative process
The creative process unfolds in many different outlets. While building and understanding a path is key, creativity plays an important role in the execution of a process that continually evolves and never ends. Ogilvy Public Relations is one of the world’s leading agencies, and its Creative Studio in Washington, D.C., has produced award-winning content time after time. Creativity is a strategic process, as well as one that sells.
Richard Lukstat, the executive vice president and group head of the Creative Studio at Ogilvy Washington, explained how the company strives for two pillars: creativity and effectiveness. “It’s part of Ogilvy’s DNA,” Lukstat said. In between the two pillars, he described the idea of “divine discontent,” respecting the journey of the work yet understanding how both sides are different for the creator and client.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Lukstat said. “You can feel good about the results but should never be happy with where the work is — you always need to push it and make it better.”
Conceptualizing ideas and turning them into action must take place after an extensive research process, however. Lukstat noted if you analyze the research correctly, you’ll find the “aha” moment. “The insights are what drives the true creative work,” Lukstat said.
Lukstat also described a process called “layering,” in which everyone involved on a project shares their most immediate creative ideas as a start to brainstorming; once completed, all ideas put on the table are immediately taken off to dig deeper and generate even more innovation. “The best creative is edgy and thought-provoking,” Lukstat said. “If you really want to get creative, you have to bring people [clients and designers] outside of their comfort zone.”
At Ogilvy Public Relations, one of the critical steps in the creative process is crafting “The DO Brief,” which is both a nod to the legendary David Ogilvy, as well as addresses the question: What do we want them (the target audience) to DO as a result of this communication?
When it says do, it means DO: the actual change in behavior that will ultimately affect the client’s business – and help them sleep well at night. It’s a paradigm for creating a solid foundation and reference in moving a project forward with creative strategies. Ogilvy’s The Heart Truth© Campaign is just one example of many that illustrates a successful creative process, highlighting the challenge, approach and results.
Creativity is driving the industry forward every day and serving as a sustaining factor. It’s important to look beyond its basic notions and realize how to achieve successful results through its power.