I was recently featured in Campaign in an article on Creative Technologists. [“Where creativity meets technology” by Alasdair Reid - Edition of 2nd July 2010 on page 26].
It got me thinking … Who are they? What characterizes them? And how do they fit in the ad agency environment?
Creative Technologists are a new type of breed. The Creative Geek (or “Creek” for short) has a very unique and mixed profile. It’s a profile where the left side of the brain meets the right side. Creeks are logical, rational, analytical and objective which are all qualities coming from their technical background and left side of the brain while equally they are random, intuitive, synthesizing and subjective which are all qualities coming from the right side and creative side of the brain. They have this unique blend that looks at the parts as well at the wholes.
[image taken from WIRED.com]
Daniel H. Pink said once “Logical and precise, left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age. Now comes the Conceptual Age - ruled by artistry, empathy, and emotion.” and while I like his views I find that in reality it is the merging of the logical and conceptual that produces the best experiences, and therefore giving us instead the "Experiential Age". The best illustration is the iPhone. It’s a work of art where incredible engineering mastery is equally met by amazing finesse and artistry which as a whole produce this unique ‘emotional’ bond that owners feel with it (just observe how people react when they drop the device on the floor).
In an agency you will find Creeks in various team whether in Creative, Technical, Planning and Account team. Creeks have also various level of seniority. It’s actually an interesting dilemma, how do you judge the level of seniority of a Creeks. Is this someone who’s more creative than technical ? Is it the opposite ? Is it the one that’s been doing the role the longest ? The most awarded ? Also where does the Creek really fit in an agency. I quite like the idea of being the third member of the creative team (Art Director, Copywriter and the Creek). But practically does it work ? However to be a good Creek you’ve got to keep up with the latest innovation (well the best Creek not only keep up with innovation, they innovate themselves) so this means working very closely with the technical developers.
The reality is that there’s no strong rule on where the Creeks should sit. If they sit in a creative team they have to work very closely with the developers and if they sit in a technical team they have to work very closely with the creative team. It’s also critical for the team leads to leave the ego at the door. CTOs and ECDs must pair and form the most senior creative team in the agency and lead by example. The best agencies have understood this a long time ago. The most successful ones have not only those teams located physically near each other, they also have processes that take technical input earlier in the project lifecycle and more importantly they create a culture where technology is as much celebrated as creative thinking.
Obviously the best work doesn’t always co-depend on technology. A great tagline is still a very effective advertising technique. Having said that one can argue that it is in fact completely co-dependent as the alphabet is one of the best technology the human race has ever created.