Tony Davidson on Digital Creativity

The above image is blatantly stolen from the excellent DigitalAgency blog. But short of retyping the whole thing I couldn’t think of any other way of doing it.

It’s from the D&AD Student Annual, written by Tony Davidson (Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy London) and it starts off well. It’s positive and upbeat, and the sentiments behind it are all bang on. But I read it a second time, and a third time (by the fourth read I started to feel like an oddball so I stopped).

The first 1/2 of it I couldn’t agree with more. It’s all pretty much fact. Fact that the most recent Ofcom report backs up almost to the letter. And it’s not just ‘our industry’ that’s running scared. The telecoms industries, broadcast media, publishing (books, films , music, videogames), and many others besides are trying to decide whether this is the most exciting thing that ever happened, or the thing that’s going to kill them.

However, halfway through it starts to make me a bit angry. Maybe I’m just touchy and I’m not reading it right.

But to suggest that it’s only now that ‘ideas’ people are getting involved with digital sounds really arrogant and is blatantly incorrect. If there was nothing good online why are there so many people there now. They’ve not been holding off for a bunch of ideas people to come and create good content.

The underlying (and slightly sinister) message is that because we all use computers now, we should all be able to create effective and interesting digital things. Which doesn’t work for me at all. It’s like saying that an agency like Poke should be able to come up with great TV ideas because we sometimes watch television. (We can’t and don’t by the way).

And yes, we are looking at a similar set of creative qualities. But there are more of these qualities than there were before. And I do sincerely believe that there are ‘digital people’, not people who speak in zeros and ones. But people who get it. People who live, play and create in this new world.

I guess the big question for all of us is where ‘digital creativity’ comes from. And how the organisations who deliver this creativity should be structured (or not). Is it the role of traditional agencies as we know them? Where ‘creatives’ generate ideas that are fed to craftspeople who produce stuff to fill media spaces (whatever shape or size they might be)? I think there’s a bit of that going on right now. But it’s the part of the industry that spends its days talking about advertising formats and the latest cyber-lions.

Personally that’s not what excites me. I’m excited by the notion of broad integrated teams working together to explore creativity across the board. Creativity in ideas, technology, craft, copy, interaction and experience (as well as stuff that we don’t even know about yet). If you look at where the real pockets of digital innovation are happening, they’re in the companies and organisations that are employing rapid development methodologies, with tight teams of extreme talent working towards common goals that they all passionately believe in.

These people aren’t just developing bits of communication, they’re developing new products, new businesses, new companies and new industries. They’re creating new ways for people to communicate and consume. They’re building software that can fundamentally change peoples’ lives.

That’s the kind of creativity that makes me want to go to work in the morning.

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12 thoughts on “Tony Davidson on Digital Creativity”

  1. I’m hearing this a lot. People in ad agencies, media agencies and DM agencies all tell me that, now they’re taking digital seriously, they’ll be the ones clients trust.
    I do think many digital agencies will (rightly) end up as production houses, but those who understand how creativity, technology and media fit together will prosper.
    But that requires experience. Of having been there and done things – and probably got the tshirt too.

  2. Yup. I hear ya. If you look to the U.S .you’ll see that’s pretty much how it’s panning out. There’s a few great digital specialists doing things. And a lot of digital production houses.

    But when you look at the things that are really getting poeple hot, they’re done by a completely different type of company. They’re done by people with startup mentalities.

    If we really are in a time of flux that’s as severe as poeple make out then keeping the same agencies with the same types of structures and heirarchies in the driving seat doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do. Does it?

  3. very interesting things have been going on ever since the heat went off the web a few years ago. the resurgence we’re enjoying now is the fruit of a lot of good work that has been delivering value to clients and users alike, perpetuating uptake and immersion that’s recently hit critical mass. pretty stupid then think to claim it’s just starting to get interesting because this is another way of saying, ‘nothing important has been going on or perhaps I just wasn’t looking”

  4. Sounds like you are frustrated by my comments because you are an ideas person.
    As you pointed out in your reply, an ideas person does not have to confine himself to the web. They can do ideas anywhere. Personally I’d love to give people like yourself the chance to do a TV commercial, think of a product or create an event.
    Some of the best people ‘ideas’ people we’ve hired recently did not come from advertising backgrounds.
    Cup of tea?

  5. Hi Tony

    That’s a brilliant choice of word: frustration.

    I’m not frustrated by anything or anyone in particular, I just sometimes feel frustrated. Frustrated because our industries seem to be forming themselves in ways that aren’t going to deliver the brilliance that we’re capable of, individually and collectively.

    I should stop being frustrated and try to make things better. So let’s have that cup of tea and put the world to rights. :-)

    Cheers.

  6. one thing that has always worried me about the ad industry is the way that the word “creative” is bandied about, almost as if it needs to keep reassuring itself that advertising is the pinnacle of creative achievment (rather than the refuge of failed novelists and film directors, as I sometimes think some of them suspect).

    It seems to be that part of this strategy is to deny anyone else the right to be creative. When advertising practitioners call themselves “creatives” they draw a line in the sand, showing just as clearly who they consider to be the “non-creatives”; that is, everybody else.

    By this logic, even someone like Tim BL, who invented (note: an act of creation) the World Wide Web – the single most powerful life changing thing this generation has known – is just waiting for Tony Davidson, creator of the (admittedly fantastic) Honda ads, to show him and his developer friends how it should have been done.

    And by way of thanks, perhaps Tony could give Tim Berners Lee “the chance to direct a TV ad” too, so he can prove himself in the real world of advertising.

  7. Hi Tony,
    I pretty much share your view about the so-called ideas persons.
    I think if someone is doing it with love and not to satisfy his ego or who has the best idea or where it comes from, then you have the best truthful ideas, which the customers get also as a truthful message. When it comes from the heart it goes to the heart.
    And I think I have made some of those ads. I will really appreciate, if you can take a look at them and say a word.
    I don’t have your email address to contact you, but here is mine: mail.simeon.dimitrov@gmail.com

    thanks…

    Cheers

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