Patrick Collister über Creeks, Kreativität und Technologie

Ein Interview mit Patrick Collister, Creative Director bei „The Zoo“/Google EMEA, über die Digitalisierung und die Werbebranche.

Als Creative Director bei „The Zoo“/Google EMEA kennt sich Patrick Collister mit Kreativität und Innovationen aus. Herausforderungen bildet dabei natürlich auch die Digitalisierung, aber auch zahlreiche Chanchen – und schafft sogar neue Arbeitstypen wie die Creeks. Über diese Creative Geeks, so die Langform der Creeks, hat Collister auch beim ADC Kongress in Hamburg referiert. In unserem Interview beschreibt er, wofür es Creeks braucht und wie Kreativiät und Technologie zusammenspielen können.

Patrick, you’ve recently talked on ADC-Kongress in Hamburg about the new creatives, who should be „creeks“. What is a „creek“?

A creek is a creative geek. Actually, it was my friend David Harris who coined the word, when he was executive creative director at Wunderman. As well as copywriters and art directors, integrated agencies like his needed a third kind of creative person. Someone who probably had a background in design and who was technologically savvy, someone who knew how to build websites, create apps and navigate social media. Creeks are fundamentally different to traditional agency creative. They make things. They build prototypes. They demonstrate their ideas. Creatives in traditional agencies do presentations, creeks do demonstrations.
For instance, Philips had a brief to persuade people to brush their teeth for two minutes to keep them healthy. Achtung! in Amsterdam answered it by creating ‘Brush Button’, a device which you attach to your bathroom mirror and which gives you two minutes of personalized content while you brush. Your calendar for the day, the traffic on your route to work, the sports news about your football team…
They did not present their idea in a boardroom but in a bathroom. Where it made sense.    

Are you a creek? Or one of many creative directors without technical expertise, as you mentioned in Hamburg?

Jokingly I like to say I have moved from jingles and slogans to clicks and likes. No, I am not a creek myself but I am proud and privileged to work with people who are. On the other hand, I believe that there is still an important role for writers and art directors, for people who understand brands, people and how to tell stories.  One of the curiosities of our times is whenever it looks as if there is a new way of doing something, its exponents immediately claim the old ways are finished. And they are not.

If you think about the challenges for media and advertising: what is creativity for, why is it important?

Creativity is a word which has been bent out of shape. In many ways it has been trivialized. In advertising terms, it has been suborned to mean ‘award winning’. In a wider context it is often ridiculed as being about playing with finger-paints and reconnecting with your inner child. Blah!
Creativity is the ability to solve problems and this world has some major problems right now that need highly inventive minds to deal with them. Over-population, climate change, mass migration to name a few. In terms of our own domain, advertising, our clients are facing huge problems which need our attention. Not the least of which is survival. Over 70% of Fortune 100 companies have disappeared since the 1980s. How can we help our clients maintain their businesses let alone grow them?
As their creative business partners, we need to be able to investigate ideas in all manner of shapes and sizes to help them.  

Technology and creativity are more like opposites. So how do you want to bring both sides together?

Technology and creativity are not in opposition at all! I am honoured to work for Google, where the engineers are called ‘the creatives’. Google is structured in order to encourage small teams to have ideas, test them and if they fail, let them fail fast then begin again. It’s a process of have an idea, test it, and repeat. And the people most valued are the ‘smart creatives’, people who combine technical skills with business acumen and a questing sort of imagination. They are the guys who have come up with Google Glass, Project Loon (put balloons at the edge of space to beam down wi-fi to sub-Saharan Africa), the driverless car, etc.
In many ways, Google is doing exactly what many of our clients are slowly realizing they have to do as well. Which is not to say what they are about but to demonstrate it. Don’t put out messages about being caring and sharing but BE caring and sharing and let people talk about it among themselves.
Which brings us back to creeks. People who create experiences that enable brands to show their customers and loyalists what they stand for.
Incidentally, creative people have always embraced technology. In fact, in the case of Startrek, creative people have predicted technology pretty successfully!  

What could technology, especially data driven technology, give to creative people?

Since starting at Google I have come to understand that the most powerful ideas are those based on insights. And that data is the amazingly rich source of those insights.
An insight is an observation about people and their behaviours which is so blindingly obvious, you wonder why no-one had ever thought of it before. The first time I was handed a real insight was by Jon Steele, now Global Head of Strategy for WPP. His insight, when we were trying to sell milk to British mums, was that milk isn’t a drink, it’s a food. That observation gave me permission to write commercials very different to anything that had been done in the market before and a Silver at Cannes.
So, what does data give creative people? Awards. Especially now there is a specific Creative Data category at Cannes.
The other thing data-driven tech gives creative people is the ability to know exactly who they are talking to. The broader your target audience, the more bland you have to be to say something meaningful to them all. But the more defined your target audience, the more pointed your message can be. Because when you know who you are talking to, you also know how you can talk to them.

What’s about data for creatives: How could they harness it?

Creative people have always been obsessed with data. Except they used to call it ‘information’ and they would pump their account teams and their clients for a surprising fact that might possibly become the cornerstone of an entire campaign.
Nine out of ten cats prefer…
That’s data.
The whole Sainsbury’s campaign in the UK, ‘Try something new today’ came from data. The insight that if the shopper spent just £1.38p more when she visited Sainsbury’s, all their troubles would be over.
So, in setting out to get the mums of Britain to buy one extra little thing each time they went to the supermarket, the agency won a ton of awards.
More recently, one of the data-driven planners in The Zoo found that in the UK, on average a woman’s relationship with her hairdresser lasts longer than her marriage. Any creative person worth his/her salt can do something wonderful with that insight – that came from data.

Could you please give us some examples for data driven and successful creativity?

Data allows you to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. For instance, a brilliant campaign from Red Fuse Communications, Hong Kong, for Colgate showed people when they were buying their groceries how much sugar was contained in their purchases.
This was shown as a series of sugarlumps – on the till receipt. So, having just bought a bottle of tomato ketchup, you could now see it contained the equivalent to 22 sugar-lumps. So you should probably use the coupon to buy some toothpaste!
Perhaps the most interesting application of data and turning it into creativity at the moment is JWT Amsterdam’s ‘The Next Rembrandt’, made with the help of Microsoft on behalf of ING, sponsors of the Rembrandt museum in Amsterdam. What they did was capture all the data about Rembrandt’s portraits in order to be able to create a perfect Rembrandt 300 years after the artist’s death. Not a copy but a composite of every one of his pictures (you can see it here). It’s an idea I wish we had done in The Zoo. Still, the team Hamburg is working on some exciting things at the moment, so watch this space.

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