[Inspiration Archive] Nick Law: Creativity in the Age of Invention

[Inspiration Archive] Nick Law: Creativity in the Age of Invention

At SXSW – a series of conferences and festivals celebrating the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries, Publicis Groupe CCO, Nick Law tackles the creatives status within the agencies, making a case for them to be in leading positions.

In the first part of his presentation, Nick is looking at the relationship between creativity and technology, following with the one between creativity and organizations, and wrapping up with creativity and invention.

He starts off from a Steve Jobs observation which states that in times of change, product people need to have a bigger role and goes back to the creative revolution from the 50’s, recognizing the innovations it brought in terms of agency's structure, but complaining that today were using more or less the same model.

The creative revolution didn’t happen because somebody said I will work harder, it happened because  of an organizational change.

If the old model consisted in putting together the copy and the art, to create a story, nowadays the story and innovation work together to obtain an experience.

Nick claims that technology and data aren’t to be scarecrows for creatives, but technology, alongside the connectivity it brings, is to accelerate creativity and speaks about the importance of mastering the new mediums and designing the companies around them.

He also approaches ‘the big idea’ in advertising, demystifying it and attributing it to strategists, as the big idea is an idea before it’s executed, whereas the creative idea is built to be executed.

At the end of the talk, there’s a Q&A session.

 

 

Strategists and creative people need to lead

The question I got asked when I took the job about ten months ago is why does Publicis need a Chief Creative Officer. It seemed to me that for a company whose product was creativity in many cases, it meant that there's a good reason to have a chief creative officer in the same way that you need an organizing principle around the business with maybe a chief financial officer or chief operating officer, but this was definitely a new thing.

Here’s a possible answer from Steve Jobs, who considers the status of product people in a company’s structure. What he's saying is that it is possible to make money without innovating. And if that is the case, then you don't really need product people at the forefront and leadership position. There are instances where you might have a monopoly or you might have a really successful model, where product people's marginal difference is less. And this has been true for 50 years up until very recently in advertising, when the product people who started the creative revolution in advertising took a back seat as media became really the driver of the business and it was a very stable business. Media technologies were stable, the companies that they served were very stable and of course this has sort of changed.

What I'm arguing in this presentation is that in times of change, product people need to lead, and in the case of the advertising industry, the product people are in many cases the strategists and creatives whose work gets sold. This is the title of my presentation and the reason this is so important right now is that we're going through the age of invention and this is what has led to all this rapid change.

 

Creativity and technology

There is a great dilemma going on right now, especially amongst creative people, about the two words that they're really scared of right now: data and technology. But technology is just another word for new and data is a part of that.

One of these things, took a lot of creative people in the advertising industry to say that, it's technology and the other one isn't. The thing that it's technology is obviously on the right and the thing that isn't is on the left, and that’s an absurd thing to say.

When people talk about what is changing our industry and it's all about creativity, and not technology, it's a ridiculous premise. Because when the TV came along, it was hugely disruptive and in fact, when it first came out, people thought that it was a dumping place for garbage, similar as to what they're saying about internet now.

This idea that technology is divorced from creativity is ridiculous. In fact, I would argue that technology is a condition of creativity. You can't be creative without technology. In the word “creativity” is the word “create” and you can't create without a medium, and all mediums are technology. Now I could be really fatuous and say even languages are technology. That's true, but mostly the point I want to make is that when you come up with ideas to execute, you think about the execution as you're coming up with the idea, so here's an example and this is a very primitive technology, it's called sand.

I want to draw something in the sand with my finger, and in this act of creation it's impossible for me not to consider the medium. So, as I'm coming up with my idea for what I'm going to express in this medium, I've already accepted the limitations of the medium. I know that I can't do a really finely detailed illustration, I can't do like an etching that Leonardo DaVinci do, because the medium will not support it.

The idea which has become very popular in advertising, that technologies are an impediment to creativity is absurd, because you can't be creative without a technology. Creativity is dependent on technology.

 

Creatives make the best out of technology

And the other thing which is interesting and this is why as creative people, we should be more active in the technology, as opposed to standing back and being scared of: when people invent stuff, they then surrender that technology to creative people in many cases.

So this is a sort of famous instance where, as Edison was developing the gramophone and you can look up in the New York Times archive, the leak out of Menlo Park Queens was that he's got this thing and it's a talking machine, it's an amazing talking machine and all the applications are amazing, you can put nursery rhymes on there, you could put sermons, you could put the voice of God, you could use her last words and be granny before she pops off. It's a great invention for recording talking. Of course, it became something completely different in the hands of sort of applied artists. And this happens all the time. Technologies are created and they've taken different places by the people that use that technology. 

 

Master your medium

An important thing to understand what makes now very different, is technology always takes time to be mastered and what tends to happen is the first version of a technology uses the grammar of the technology that came before it. So when film first came out, it looked a lot like theater that was being filmed – there was only a stationary camera, there was no editing. Even early TV looks a lot like someone reading the radio, being filmed.

It takes time and in the case of film, TV, even radio and even going right back to when Gutenberg created the printing press, there was no such thing as punctuation before the printing press, you didn't need it. You had to develop a way to use the technology in a way that was correct, and the creative people are the ones that do that.

We needed a bit of time to create a whole language around a new technology and for creative people to use the technology enough to sort of master it. We know this is true. But since the advent of computing, our ability to catch up has been compromised. And one of the first things that happened, which helped technologies, which helped and made creativity multiply was that computing helped execution catch up with thinking.

 

The old school style

When I started in the business, I learned how to use the drafting table. When I came up with an idea, I would sketch it and it would take weeks for one idea to be executed. It was a very crude and laborious and long process. It wasn't very good for creativity because you could have one idea and then you get it back in a week and it would be crap and so you'd have to start again. The thing that happened is that computing changed that. 

The first version of Photoshop sped up the ability to imagine something and execute it so quickly. And that was the first serious Photoshop. Of course, subsequently, all of this technology and these interfaces developed. Because we could execute as quickly as we could think, we could execute more, and we created a culture of creativity where you could look at a lot of options. And you contrast that with how I worked on a drafting table and it revolutionized the craft of creativity.

 

Connectivity

Then this thing called the internet came along and that changed things again. Because it accelerated creativity by connecting a lot of people, innovation. Or creativity is by definition two ideas that exist coming together to make a new and third idea. So if you're connecting a lot of people, you're going to get a lot of new ideas. And there has been an exponential explosion in creativity and invention since the internet.

Even at the beginning, when the pipe was small, it created a whole sort of revolution of connecting artists and as the pipe got bigger all sorts of things happen. I don't know how many in this room remember this. This is from the mid-2000s.

There was a Scottish guy, I think somewhere in like Aberdeen or something, in a bedroom, in some miserable town in north of Scotland, and he was using software that had been discontinued off the shelf and he created this CG animation called Rust Boy. 

And amongst the creative community this thing was being shared a lot because he was recording or posting his progress. I don't think he ever actually finished the film, but it was beautiful, and as he posted it he would give tutorials of what he was doing. It was a sort of beginning of this acceleration of and this connection of creativity that changed everything. 

 

The changing power of technology

And it changed not just in the art. When I first arrived in London, in 1988, you couldn't get a good meal. It was horrible. And now you go to London, it's like everywhere else, it's amazing food in every big city in the world, because we're all connected, how difficult it is?

Another example a friend was telling me is about MMA fighting. Apparently, the MMA completely changed when people started to learn how to fight on YouTube. Because the trick with MMA fighting is to go from one style of fighting to another. The transition between two styles of fighting, apparently, is very important. And you learn different styles of fighting through. So it changed fighting, which is great.

And then the other thing that you could know was that it changed the grammar of a lot of things. So, if you look at TV dramas from 20 years ago they're really dull. If you took someone who was watching a TV drama from 20 years ago and put him in front of one of today’s TV drama, they'd be very confused, because the grammar completely changed and coincidentally it happened with the advent, with an acceleration of craft, thanks to people connecting with themselves. In contrast, by the way, if you look at a TV ad from 20 years ago and compared it to one now, they're pretty much the same.

So, there are plenty of areas of creativity that have accelerated thanks to this connection and because they've got different incentives, like TV drama, that hasn't happened in the advertising world, which is why this is a crisis.

 

Creativity and organizations

Obviously technology affects creativity and then you need to think about how to organize around that new technology because we have these businesses. And the last time there was a true seismic innovation in the creative organization of our industry was in the late 50s. At the time, these were the main mediums that we used. 

The TV we had in 1955 become the biggest medium and so it started to affect things in a really profound way. And one of the things that happened is that prior to that, a creative team was only composed of a writer. If you see Madman, you'll see there's a guy who probably lives in the Upper West Side, he's a writer and he's the creative guy. And he writes the ad and then he sends it downstairs where there's a guy from Staten Island hunched over a drafting board coloring in the ad. And the sort of stuff he came up with was like this:

It's beautifully crafted, but there's no play between art and copy because it was created here and handed there. They're parallel worlds. You can take the image away from this ad and it still works. And in fact, you can take they copy away from the ad and it still works, because the illustrations is just illustrating the copy.

 

The creative revolution

And then this guy came along, Bill Bernbach, and had an idea. In the midst of all this new technology, he thought that we need to do more dimensional creativity, so why don't we to get the art director from upstairs and pair him with the copywriter? I'm sure that the first time that art director came upstairs, the copywriter looked in and said what are you doing here? I'm the creative person.

I've seen this over and over again in contemporary agencies when the digital person arrives. 'What are you doing? I'm about the ideas.' But the results of pairing these two things, a very simple organizational change, was beautiful work, was the creative revolution. And I'm taking one instance here, but this is across all mediums.

And that only happens whith two people sitting together, drinking together, they're like married couples. To this day there are terrific copy and art teams roaming the world like married couples. They know each other better than their spouses and they get jobs in different countries.

This atomic team was invented in the late 50s and it's still the atomic team of agencies today. That's absurd. And the person that invented this team was a creative person. It's absurd. 

We had this sort of magical construct, a synthetic relationship coming up with stories, because stories were what the mediums would support, they were narrative mediums.

 

 

The new model

Now, we're in a world where you need to be more than stories.

Stories are so important, but as a marketer you were creating innovation because the web is a place for innovation, for combining things and you do have the opportunity in an agency to help build your clients' business in a way that you couldn't just with top-down media. And then, of course, there is a word called experience, which everyone uses - it's the most overused word in the industry and how I would define experience is it's a designed interaction between a company and its customer. It just happens that most of those interactions now are through an interface and most of those interfaces are on your phone in your pocket.

But it doesn't have to be that, experienced designers also design experiences in the physical space with all sorts of different merging interfaces. And in a way, experience connects these two things because a story could be delivered by an experience and also innovation in many cases express itself. If this is the stuff that you need to make, you need different versions of brains.

 

RGA experience

I was at a company called RGA for 17 years, prior to joining Publicis and because RGA started as a company that designed websites, we were very honest about our relationship to that technology. We weren't coming up with big ideas and then figuring out what to do with those big ideas. We were practitioners in the web. When the web changed, we changed their capability. When it was a hyperlinked brochure, we had designers that could design hyperlink brochures. When flash came along, we needed animators, who could connect that to e-commerce or to supply chain, so we did Nike ID. If you could then take that thing outside of the screen and stick it in a shoe, we did Nike plus. Our capability was completely mapped to what was going on.

And then something really interesting happened when the pipe got big enough that the web ate storytelling. Prior to that, all the digital agencies like the RGA and the early digital agencies, we were like “storytelling is stupid, we're all about utility, we're going to change well with utility. We hate advertising.”

And by definition, we didn't like storytelling, so we didn't have storytellers. And then this thing happened, which was the web became the best place for storytelling. And we had to either grow up and take in storytellers, or we were going to let the web race in front of us. And it was an interesting time because this is all we were selling. We were selling brains that did a particular thing. 

So as an organizing principle to make sure this worked, we came up with this thing. Instead of looking at art and copy as the atomic team, let's look at an organizing principle which is story and system, the latter being synonymous with design. So as a capability, it's really a narrative capability or a design capability and we brought those two things together. At the time, this was forced through very practical reasons, because I saw visual designers had been designing interfaces with 10 years going off and doing really crap content and then I saw traditionally agencies doing the opposite. They had a threat to comprehend coming up with awesome app ideas, which were miserable, they didn't work and they didn't understand the most basic thing that an experienced designer understands, which is that user comes first.

 

The creative’s autonomy

Creative people think they can do everything, they think they can design furniture. And it's not to say that we shouldn't have broad capabilities and we shouldn't try, but if you're going to do something else, have someone who's done it before, help you. It seems obvious but the amount of times I see, after the co-products come to me and say: “I've got this great platform idea.” And I say “Well, I'm going to bring in this interaction designer to do the Super Bowl spot, is that okay?” It's like Jordan playing baseball, didn't work out.

 

What’s the brain have to do with it?

When in my spare time as an amateur neuroscientist, I read up about the two hemispheres of the brain because I thought this is like an organizing principle, it should map against the tool that we use for our clients, which is our brain. And what I found was that unlike the conventional wisdom which is that one hemisphere is rational, one is creative, it's actually very different than that. It's more complicated. One hemisphere of the brain, the left hemisphere, processes things one at a time. It's a temporal processing unit. The right hemisphere of the brain processes things all at once. It's a spatial processing unit.

So it stands to reason that if I'm a really good storyteller, the powers in my brain are going to be different, because I'm all about the revealed moment, a distillation. If I'm a designer, my medium is space. I see the relationship between things, I recognize patterns and I create behaviors.

Narrative thinking is a subtractive thing because it’s the skill of making things really simple. It's been the currency of advertising for 50 years. It's really important you understand something as it's clear and delightful and simple. And great designers and systematic thinkers and technologists are about possibility, because they see how to connect things. And as I said before, at the beginning, innovation is about connecting things and making new things.

 

Applications

At RGA that became an organizing principle. And the way to judge it and this is the only way you can judge a creative organization, is by the output. What are you making and the way that I judge the output and I still do this today when I see these teams with these contrasting capabilities come together, is I want to see that we have a balance between simplicity and possibility.

When I was looking at the work out of different offices, I'd look at work from one office and they were doing good advertising, but they weren't innovating. It's like “Oh, we need more systemic thinkers in there.” Or they were innovating, but they couldn't tell a simple story. So you get this display between these two things.

 

Agency structure

The Bernbach team structure was built to look like this:

You have a creative leader, who's probably from copy but could be from art, and then there's a step-and-repeat team.

Now, as we established in the creative revolution, this is a magical team that did amazing work. But it became such an article of faith that this was a creative team, that no one questioned it. So, all these years later when the media environment is completely changed, it's completely upended, you walk into most large agencies and they're still structured like this.

And then, what typically happened, was that they added a whole bunch of a grab bag of new things, exotic creatures and stuck them underneath. The problem with this, is the intentions were good but they didn't structure it. Change is a design problem.

 

The new structure

These agencies were storytellers but they didn't understand how to design their own companies. Because what happens when you got a structure like this, is the idea comes in, it's assigned to a creative team and that creative team decides when to bring in a social strategist or a data scientist and they are not qualified. You get a layer of people that are so frustrated by being executional, when they should be a part of creation, that they leave. And so, this bottom layer is constantly leaving agencies because they're structured incorrectly.

The creative revolution didn't happen because people woke up one morning and said I'm going to try a little bit harder, I'm going to come up with better ideas now. It happened because of an organizational change, because someone designed a team that forced a different way of working.

This is a model that we created at RGA over a decade ago, and is now started to be credited elsewhere. This is not the only model, by the way.

What I'm trying to show is that you need to be intentional. If you need different work, create a different team. So rather than having an atomic team that you step and repeat, that was executional, you have the organizing principle at the leadership position, which is story and experience, which is subtractive thinking, additive thinking, the creativity and time traveling space, great storytelling, great messages, great designing of behaviors.

And the important thing about this leadership team is that they're not managing different departments. They're working so closely together that the work that comes out of that organization, you can't peel away what's an experience and what's your story. And this happens when those two people work so closely together that they form a team.

Once you have that leadership team established, then you can curate any team you need for the problem. So, when a problem comes in, the leadership team assesses who they need for that problem, they build a module team. There is an organizing principle and then those teams are mapped against the problem at hand. It's very simple.

 

Creativity and invention

All right, so how do we find ourselves in a position now, where I would argue that there's a crisis going on in the industry? Well, there's a few things. The first thing is the holding companies and the agencies had had such a great 50 years that the product people were infantilized.  I think creatives should be in leadership positions. Bernbach, Ogilvy, Burnett, these were creative people. They understood the product and they came up with a creative way to make a business and right now we've got to stitch these two walls together because we've got these huge organizations which were run by finance and operations and you need to do that, holding companies or public companies need to be run well as businesses, but in many cases they're separate from the people that have the product sensibility.

And the people with the product sensibility have created a parallel culture around the award industrial complex. And they're worried more about case studies than they are about business, and you've got the business side worrying more about spreadsheets and product. 

 

The big idea

In the agency world there is this thing called the big idea. And the big idea is what creatives come up with out of which everything can be done. So it's organizing.

I have a problem with this. I think that ideas are important but the way that the big idea is applied is the very thing that separated these creative teams from the technology that they need to master. It's interesting, when I ask to see what this big idea is from a traditional team. They'll say ‘Well, you understand this is a big idea, this can be used across everything.’ ‘So, show it to me, I want to see the big idea.’ And it always looks like an anthem film in a tagline.

So, it's a myth, because they're already using the medium that they're most comfortable with. They just think it's like water because TV is not a technology. So I believe there is no such thing as big ideas in our industry, but their strategy. Strategy is an idea before it's executed. A creative idea is an idea that is built to be executed. So the big idea is ruinous because it's taken these teams, these young teams, and separated them from execution.

 

Catching the rhythm of technology growth

And this is all happening at the same time that the web is creating this exponential growth in formats and mediums. It took decades for radio to go to TV, to go to the next thing or even print. It took decades to get used to this technology, to master it, to create a new grammar, and now we're getting new technologies and new formats happening every few months. It's absurd. At the time when we should be most desperately trying to catch up and master these mediums, we're distancing ourselves from the mediums by saying: “oh, it's just about the big idea. Once we've got the big idea, we can extrude it into pixels.”

While that's been happening, all these other things that have been happening in the industry are being taken away and given to small companies. And so you wake up one day and the budget that you're getting from your client is getting smaller as well. And you think: ‘oh, they're spending less.' They're not spending less, they're giving it to that young start-up that knows how to do voice, or that young start-up that knows how to do conversational interfaces or the young start-up that it's mastering VR. There's a whole ecosystem out, it's an exciting time to be creative, but it's not an exciting time to deny that you need to be able to have your hands in the tools.

 

Who creates the language?

In the last year, Instagram stories have just exploded as a new medium. Instagram stories is not TV, it's not even Instagram, it's something else. The people that are developing the grammar around Instagram are not in the agencies. It's a Korean teenager in a bedroom somewhere and that's shameful for a creative industry to surrender the mastery of that.

This is what happens: Facebook or Instagram or Google, they'll send a team into an agency with best practices. We're here to teach you best practice. And then the interns turns up, no one else will turn up because they come out with big ideas, I've got no time to figure out this stuff, it's just technology. It's not technology, it's our medium, we need to learn this. We should be going back to these platforms with best practices.

 

Data and creativity

It's a crisis. Now, not everyone is in such a dire position as I'm saying. It's true things are changing, it's good but they've got to change quicker and the most important thing is to recognize that they're going to change if we understand our relationship with technology and if we stop being scared of it. It's the same thing as our relationship with data. 

'Oh, data is ruining creativity'. Why is it? Did your experience you had today, ruin you as a creative person? Because you could think of data as just extended experience. It's a bunch of distributive experiences that we need to figure out if we can triangulate them and it can inform us. That's what data is. Don't tell me that a newborn baby is very good at being creative. They're not, because they've got no experience.

Creativity is all of your experiences, all the things you've done well, all the things you've done badly, all the times you've got into a fight with your mom, all the museums you've been to, all that comes out as creativity. It's mysterious, but it's true. And the same relationship as with your experience, you should have with data. It's old mental experience, treat like that.

And not every piece of data is useful, we know that. We know, for example, that the fight that I had at the pub, in Australia, didn't help me as a creative person. And you're going see data which is like the fight you had in the pub, which is like I don't think this is really useful, because in the end we need to take an intuitive leap and turn that data into knowledge and into inspiration, and into an inspirational leap. That's our job.

 

Conclusion

Let's go back to the beginning. There this was the point that Jobs is making. In times of change, product people need to lead. In times of stability, the product people become less influential. There's a huge change going on. But we can only do that if we master the new mediums. The job for the agencies is to master the new mediums and then there's another creative act. There's a creative act of actually making the stuff, mastering the mediums, becoming fluent, and in many cases inventing a new medium. This generation can invent the whole language around a lot of mediums, as they emerge. But then the second creative act is to design your own company. Because, as Bernbach showed, is that if you're making new things you need to have new people sit and structured in different ways. That's what we need to do as creative people and that's why in the end, creative people need to run things. There we go, that was me justifying my job. Thank you.

 

Q&A session

We are in the most exciting moment of advertising, but the most difficult time. The consumers, the clients no longer trust us. How can we change the situation?

I hear this a lot about the relationship between agencies and clients and how fraught it is. We need to understand as an industry, it's not our job to have our clients build new capabilities and lead us into the future. That's not the job of the clients. By the time a client needs a conversational interface, if you don't have that capability, then you're in big trouble. Because they're just going to go elsewhere. It's not that it's mistrust, the problem is that agencies, when they hear that the client is looking for a conversational interface, they scramble something together, they heard about some kid downstairs whose brother did some of that, and they put together a presentation and they go in and they try to sell it. And the client is like: 'I know you guys don't do this.' And so, then they go to the startup that's doing it.

I think that's the thing, and part of the problem, is that their client`s services capability and agencies has too much influence over how you build a team. If your account person is bringing back what a client has typecast you to do and then you're building a team around that, then you have outsourced your model to the client. So, in addition to doing that, to satisfy what a client wants, you need to be building things that you know will be important in two years. That's a strategic decision and a strategic decision best made by people from the experience design discipline because their medium is the medium. They know what's coming up. They know the voice is important, they know that if you haven't figured out voice now it might be too late. I don't think we can blame our clients for this relationship, I think we need to be more proactive in creating capabilities that they're going to be needed in six months, instead of trying to sell them capabilities that they say they want, that we haven't figured out.

 

What do you think about the ego from creative agency leaders?

Oh, that's a good one, I like that. So there is a history in our industry of a lot of dickheads. People that think it's really clever to demean young creatives and to tell them this and do other sort of stuff. And there was a time when as a creative leader at an agency, you could sort of conceive of and help execute anything that that agency did, from a TV spot to radio, to direct, whatever it was. The problem with that behaviour now is that you're never going to be in that position. There's no one, no creative leader in any agency now that knows how to do everything that needs to be made. So if you treat people without generosity, the chances are your ability to be an effective leader is really diminished. There is nothing wrong to having an ego, but I think that the most important quality for a leader now, in this time when you need to build these webs of collaboration, you need to be generous and respectful.

I know that there's a lot of people saying: 'Oh, we need safe workplaces, we need respectful workplaces.' But we also need workplaces where people can take risks, and they can try things, and not get berated by some asshole, if you do that.

 

I really like the analogy of grammar for creative craft on any given technology. Do you have a vision for a new sort of creative grammar at Publicis?

So Publicis is a holding company that has so many different types of creative people that there is not one grammar. And in fact, the smaller version of connected team that I talked about at RGA is more and more having to be assembled at the holding company level. All of these agencies are these advertising companies. And so, I think that's where we need to figure out, not just the grammar of the specific capabilities, but what's a connecting grammar.

One of the things that I noticed for example, is that at RGA, because it was a design company and a technology company, the culture of the place was pretty introverted. Systematic thinkers tend to be very dense thinkers, they're not like high-fiving advertising guys, they tend to be people on the spectrum a little bit. And then, in the advertising world, you don't have that. Narrative thinkers tend not to be like that, but very creative and high-fiving.

So, the pilot issue, when RGA started to bring in storytellers, it really worked well in a strange way because you had a culture of introverts and these extroverts came in and figured out what to do. And because it was a pretty respectful culture, they enjoyed having new capabilities and the storytellers figured out how to plug in and the structure was there to enable that.

In contrast, on the traditional agency side, a lot of digital people went into traditional agencies and because there was no structure to support their ambitions, and because they tended to be introverts, they drifted off and clung to the edges of the agency and were not used in a correct way. And so, there was a lot of really talented people that found themselves not utilized. Thus the grammar becomes really a process then, of how you get that type of personality and that way of thinking to work with something, that's very different.

This is connected incidentally to the whole conversation that's going on about diversity, because it's diversity of background, gender, race, but so is the diversity of capability and they're very different personality types that I'm talking about here. And the magic is when these two awkward, unmatched capabilities, come together.

The importance of grammar is more about connecting divergent grammars. If I am a systematic thinker, I probably should be involved at the beginning of the process because I'm going to synthesize a lot of stuff, it's going to get very complexed, I'm going to ask a lot of questions, I'm going to understand more in a really dense way about what I've seen, than anyone else. And then the storyteller should come in to stop asking questions, start answering things and pull it down into simplicity.

So, to me, that is not about grammar, that's about capability. And why that's important, like exploring the complexity and then simplify it, why that's an important process point, is that most agencies have actually been doing the opposite. They're starting with the big idea, which is a tag line, and then hoping that the digital people will make it live in pixels and it shouldn't be like that. The systemic thinking should be exploring all the possibilities, starting with behaviors, of sweeter behaviors and then the storyteller should come in, distill it and figure out how to make it simpler and talk about in a simple way. So it's about connection between capabilities as opposed to aligning all the grammars.

 

How the many agencies under Publicis responding to your wanting to break up the traditional structure with creative teams?

In the time that I've been at Publicis, I've done a little world tour and I've met a lot of the teams and in almost every case it's been very positive. It's been positive, I think, because people see that the industry is under duress. But also, most of these creative people, especially the young ones, they’re curious, they want to try new things. The only reason that they’re working over there is the whole industry has a muscle memory. And because the only thing that we sell is brains, we don't sell machines or process, we're not like the consultants or big platforms, we sell thinking. We should be able to wake up the next morning and be completely different. We should be like the only industry that can do that, that could completely change when it wakes up the next morning.

And so, the response from the teams has been very positive, they all want to try stuff, the model is going to be different from agency to agency, there are different issues that need to be dealt with, at different agencies. Some of them are doing really well, some of them got a model that's successful, some of them are pretty close, have got the ingredients but are not structured right, some of them are rather structured but need better talent, so it depends on each one. But generally, I would say, that people have been very positive and this is why actually I am optimistic about the creative industry. I don't think there's a future where all the creative people in this room go and work at one of the consultants, one of the clients or one of the digital behemoths. I think you can get good jobs in all those places and it will be satisfying, but none of those places has creativity as the product.

There’s going to be a industry where creative people can become the boss. But a creative person can't become the boss of Deloitte, a creative person can't become the boss at Facebook, a creative person can't become the boss of Verizon. They're all fine, amazing companies. But the way they make money is not creative.

So, it's important that creative people have a place and there will be an industry where they will be needed and that's why this leadership question becomes so important, because if they're not leading now it's going to happen sooner or later.

 

What about oral storytelling traditions that is creativity without technology?

I will answer that in two parts. The first is the industry that we belong to is not oral storytelling. I wish I could scale oral storytelling. Imagine I'm launching campaign, all I need is 2 million people to distribute throughout the world to tell oral stories. I don't think that's a good business model. We are actually in a business, but it's an important point that people came back, this goes back to something that I said at the beginning, language is a technology. 

It's a technology which is a system. It's a system of sounds that we can put together and it may not seem like it, but language is a pretty recent thing for our species. And we developed it as a technology. It's a social technology and it's an amazing thing, and it's now expressed by using 26 Latin characters assembled in different ways, but it is a technology.

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