Geeking Out on the Geeks

A Take on Creativity's CaT Conference

By Published on .

Gareth Kay
Gareth Kay

I've long been a believer that to move forward you need inspiration from outside your world. So, if you work in advertising, the Creativity and Technology (CaT) conference this week should have given you enough for quite some time and certainly a lot more than the navel-gazing that goes on at most award shows and ad conferences. Here's half a Letterman of the things that inspired me:

1. The power of a healthy R&D/lab culture inside an organization was demonstrated by Aaron Koblin of Google Labs and Nick Bilton and Derek Gottfrid of the New York Times. While many news organizations have their head in the sand when it comes to adapting to a world with the internet, the New York Times is trying to make the most of the possibilities offered.

They're making their web platform more meaningful through powerful data visualization and are making the most of how their brands comes to life across multiple platforms. As Derek Gottfrid put it, this means thinking of users rather than readers. They also showed the importance of generosity and letting go. Releasing the New York Times' API has triggered a whole host of mash-ups, increasing the reach and value of its content. For example, Instantwatcher combines the Times' critic picks with Netflix and Hulu.

2. Data visualization is de-fogging the internet, helping us recognize patterns in the dense cloud of data that fills the world. It may also be spawning a new wave of digital rock stars. Manuel Lima and Aaron Koblin (rightly billed as the "wizard of data art") both gave brilliant talks packed full of beautiful, useful work. The AlloSphere, a physical environment that brings data to life, took this to another level. Currently, agencies are using visualization to make interesting apps and sites -- it's being used for creative output. But as a planner, I can't help think that it's an amazing tool for us to use to help make sense of data in an instinctive, powerful way for co-workers, our clients and ourselves. So I'm going to try and learn processing.

3. It's time for the majority of ad agencies to wake up and realize that technology is as creative as words and pictures. It's generating new ideas (augmented reality helping Goodby bring GE's smart technology to life) and new ways of telling stories (see Barbarian Group's GE Adventure or Zoic Studios' work for "Killzone 2").

4. If you ever need an engaging game built or just a brilliantly smart and funny presentation, Kevin Slavin is your man.

5. In the end, don't forget that success comes from creating real value for people. As Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship put it, "Give people more than you expect in return." Or, as Crispin Porter & Bogusky says, "Make the internet a better place for your audience".

CaT was a great day. Hope it's back next year.

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Gareth Kay, the head of planning at Modernista, has built a department that has gained recognition for its business effectiveness at both the Effie and AMA award shows, and for its creative inspiration at the 4A's Account Planning Awards. Gareth serves on the board of the VCU Brandcenter, and is a co-founder of the nonprofit "Planning For Good," a virtual entity that harnesses the collective intelligence and amazing minds of planners around the world to help address the business and communication challenges of nonprofits. He writes a blog on brands and communication, "Brand New," and passionately believes that there has never been a more exciting time to work in advertising.

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