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Technology as a Blank Canvas for Creativity


INFLUENCER: We should look at technology as a tool, not a competitor to creativity, writes Dept's Daan Hülsmann

Technology as a Blank Canvas for Creativity

Every year, for one week, the global advertising industry celebrates its creativity, progressiveness and inventiveness at Cannes Lions. Agencies host eccentric pool parties at their villas, the beach is taken over by Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, while the Palais serves as the headquarters for the festival. In other words, Cannes is taken over by advertising agencies. Amongst this endless supply of excess, a silent threat lingers. It’s hard to see, but it’s evidently there.

Over the years, technological development has been one of the most discussed topics, and is likely to be the most impactful development in our society in the years to come. Artificial intelligence (AI) teaches a computer to understand emotions, technological inventions speed up the work process and programmatic buying is taking over a media planner’s job.

Okay, while that last part might be a tiny bit exaggerated, there’s an unmistakable fear of the swift penetration of tech in the creative industry. Agencies are being completely modified to cover a digital first mindset, or need to find different ways to conform to the rapidly changing world around them - just in order to keep servicing their clients.

Creativity Wins

However, all is not lost according to the industry. We all like to think that there’s one skill technology can never replace, ever! And it’s the main reason why, once a year, adland gathers in Cannes: almighty creativity.

But if one would put down their glass of rosé for a moment and visit the many talks the Palais had to offer, one will soon discover that even creativity is no longer a domain solely owned by humans. By measuring emotions, a computer is now able to adjust content in real-time. Thanks to AI this computer learns what type of content is suitable for a specific type of emotion and knows what kind of content it should create next time.

But technology is still nowhere near putting human creativity in any real danger. Us creatives will not be knocked out of the park so easily. There’s still loads of human insights that cannot be taught to a computer. Down in the basement of the Palais, where all the nominated work was displayed, a print ad for Heinz ketchup can be found. The ad shows an upside-down Heinz bottle that’s being shaken up and down on a red background. A human would instantly recognise this image as something that they’ve seen many, many times. A robot wouldn’t be able to think of that. Right?

Technology as Blank Canvas

During a talk hosted by RA*W Advertisers at the Embassy of Dutch Creativity, Tom Morton (SVP & US Head of Strategy at R/GA) calls technology the canvas for our creativity. We should look at technology as a tool that adds value to creativity, not as a competitor of said creativity.

DAVID Miami puts this method to use for their client Burger King. They call it 'Hackvertising' which means using existing tech as a tool to make creative work. Burger King made a TV ad in which a person activates Google’s voice assistant (Google Home, but also Android devices). This was the ultimate means to cover the message. Technology as the Whopper’s canvas.

But don’t let this rapid change fool you. While many creatives feel a certain fear for tech developments, it also gives agencies the opportunity to stay ahead of the curve. This year’s Cannes Lions has shown us that we should keep challenging ourselves rather than getting frightened about the unknown. What was the saying?

“If you can’t beat them, join them”. 

Damn right technology, run along. We’ll Ketch up!

Daan Hülsmann is an account manager at Dept digital agency

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DEPT®, Fri, 29 Jun 2018 08:55:29 GMT