Is Creativity Relevant Online?

Inspired Thinking Seems to Be in Short Supply in the Online and Interactive Space

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
Been thinking about the role of creativity lately, and it has me a little worried.

Perhaps what prompted it was a slew of portfolios from interactive art directors, where the work really sucked.

Problem is, the folks who recommended these candidates typically have good taste in advertising. I mean, the conceptual thinking was almost nonexistent. The art direction was mediocre at best. And the writing was ordinary. If these candidates were applying for a traditional creative position, they wouldn't have even gotten in the door of Brownstein Group. But when you have digital skills, it has been my experience that the level of true conceptual thinking, design, writing and art direction often takes a back seat to knowing how to create an effective website, banner ad, online community -- or any other digital tactic.

So where is creativity heading? Are we going to accept work that gets results and not push for greatness, so results will be even better? Will a generation of creatives be promoted more for their architecture and navigational skills than their imagination?

Frankly, I'd be surprised. But I do think there are some warning signs out there, so I have crafted some guidelines for those on the creative side of the business -- or those who aspire to be.

  • Re-train. If I was an art director or graphic designer or copywriter who could create only for offline advertising, I would learn new skills as soon as I could. It's not a revelation that most of the work that drives clients' businesses today has a large digital component to it. So make sure you don't become obsolete.

  • Learn from the greats. And vice versa. I believe the great art directors and copywriters, who have mastered TV, print, radio and outdoor, and the great interactive art directors and writers should spend time together. While they approach the work differently (in terms of process), each can and should learn from the other.

  • Be a student of today's work. If you take a look at the most exceptional work being done today, it truly is a combination of offline, online and interactive thinking in one campaign. Interactive creativity cannot be crafted as a one-off, and that is the reason a lot of the work communicates as if it was. Read the awards books of the interactive awards shows. Read the One Show books. Review the work that wins at Cannes. There is good work being done online -- just not enough of it.

  • Walk in your consumers' shoes. Never forget that the people who visit the website you created are often the same ones who read your print ad and drive past your outdoor ad. So appeal to them the same way in your interactive work -- with unexpected, emotional ideas, instead of a templated design that reads and looks like so many before it.

  • Patience: We are truly in a time of transition. There are too few brilliant interactive creative thinkers out there. But they are coming into the workforce each year, and not a day too soon.

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