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Is Creativity Becoming Marginalised Amidst Data-Driven Technologies?

Production Agency
London, UK
INFLUENCER: Creativity needs a level of constant reinvention to thrive alongside today’s landscape, writes Smoke & Mirrors' Stuart Holton

A few weeks ago, I arrived in Lisbon for an immersive check-in across the world of digital. 

The 2018 Web Summit event drew in over 70,000 attendees from all corners of the connected world and as with any of these gatherings, the most difficult part is deciding which talks to attend. An inevitable level of choice paralysis follows, which, unless you are a ruthless planner and a power walker who enjoys navigating Oxford Street on Christmas Eve, results in much of your time being spent at one stage as you settle in with your branded water bottle.   

Our chosen stage hosted a rich vein of discussion around fearless creativity, digital disruption, blockchain technologies and the psychology of brand building. All good, thoughtful stuff - and highly relevant, too - albeit tinged with a hint of seriousness.

You see, the truth is: digital marketing and its associated technologies has grown up. We’ve left the hopeful shores of possibility and we’re now into its application at a highly accountable scale. Huge investments have been made into ad technology and data systems with the goal of achieving truly personalised marketing and as an industry we are delivering against this. The only problem is that the closer we get to realising this vision, the more marginalised the role of creativity can become. 

And that doesn’t feel like a good thing. 

As touchpoints proliferate, audience segments grow and the funnel is defined, the traditional approach of big ‘C’ creative seems to have an increasingly small part to play in these complex systems. As John Lewis’ ‘The Boy And The Piano’ shows us, creativity still commands the stage where mass marketing is the order of the day, but when we start to consider highly segmented initiatives, how can we ensure creativity remains at its heart?

New agency models undoubtedly have a role to play by transferring creative resource from its ivory tower to a far more egalitarian environment where media, strategy, data and technology all work collaboratively together. Another solution probably lies with technology itself and the opportunity to develop tools that enhance and amplify our creative output and facilitate inspiration beyond unstructured browsing and bookmarking.

Whatever the solution, it’s clear that creativity needs a level of constant reinvention to thrive alongside today’s landscape, otherwise, it could become marginalised throughout the long tail of data-driven marketing. 

As new behaviours emerge so do new challenges, and we must find smarter, intelligent, ways to shape these opportunities to our advantage.

The alternative is that our most valuable asset doesn’t play its part and for me that sounds way too serious and not much fun at all.

Stuart Holton is digital director at Smoke & Mirrors

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