Close-Up: Is technology killing creative ideas?

Does anyone win when technology takes over where imagination once ruled, Noel Bussey asks.

As the industry's premier organ, Campaign doesn't, generally, need to go to the numerous ad blogs for news analysis ideas, but sometimes one stands out that needs further picking apart.

Last week, Ben Kay, the former creative director at Lunar BBDO and the author of If This Is A Blog Then What Is Christmas?, raised a point about new technology and its effect on the creative process - you can find it at http://ifthisis ablogthenwhatischristmas.blogs pros-and-cons.html.

As well as a number of other points, it claims that the prevalence of Photoshop means that scamps are now much closer to the finished creative product.

Delving deeper into this point shows that a) clients have too much of the idea presented to them at the early stage and may throw a temper tantrum of epic proportions later in the process if it changes too much. And b) it reduces originality because there is more room for plagiarism, less room for creative changes in the production process and no room at all for the client to use their imagination.

Kay also points out that because clients are becoming increasingly used to getting almost finished products and in-depth points of reference from their initial presentation, creatives are finding it more difficult to come up with something completely new and ground-breaking because there are no reference points to show.

This could be a reason why when VCCP was pitching its meerkat idea for, Darren Bailes and Steve Vranakis, the joint creative directors, had to stand on their chairs to mime the actions of a meerkat so the client could have a visual idea.

So does the use technology enhance or limit the early stages of the creative process?

Jon Williams, the executive creative director at Grey London, is 100 per cent behind it. Adam Kean, the joint executive creative director at Publicis, believes that it's here, so you just "have to deal with it", while Simon Learman, the joint executive creative director at McCann Erickson, believes you need to take a philosophical view of both approaches.

What everyone agrees on, however, is that it all comes down to what the client wants. How much effort to put into the first presentation should be based on your relationship with the client and what they will expect from you.

What is also funny is that every creative interviewed says that while they have never had a client buy an idea from a presentation made with technologically advanced images and references, they have all had a client expect to see a cartoon/scamp idea as a finished product - and been mightily disappointed when a fully finished ad is presented.

The consensus seems to be that as long as ideas are not generated on a Mac (which pretty much constitutes plagiarism), technology is a definite advantage to the creative process - but only if it's used with the client and their attitude in mind and if changes can be made throughout the creative process.

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CREATIVE - Steve Vranakis, joint creative director, VCCP

"I love technology, I think it's great. But I would, wouldn't I? Good creatives never get on to a Mac to come up with ideas - they come up with a thought and use technology to bring it to life.

"The creative brain is instinctive, the client brain is intelligent. Technology lets you show what you're thinking much more clearly - but you always caveat the thing so the client knows it's not going to be just like that in the end product.

"The starting point is what it's all about. You have clients spending millions of pounds - the majority aren't going make massive leaps of faith on a gut-feeling.

"Anything that gives clients trust and reassurance about delivering something that will come back to the brand is brilliant. A client has to be imaginative and creative to look at a scamp and get the idea."

CREATIVE - Jonathan Burley, executive creative director, Leo Burnett

"The bit of me that's trying to deny my innately conservative dress sense says yep, technology is a truly wonderful thing. In a world where render seems to count for at least 80 per cent of the potency of the communication, then the ability to create beautiful product at an early stage isn't a 'nice-to-have', it's a 'you're-fucked-without-it'.

"But that's the shitty bit, isn't it? The render-centric adworld seems largely a product of the technology itself. So much of the work we admire and reward seems based on a beautifully realised visualisation of a very basic product point.

"Fine, and often very lovely, but it's starting to feel like the lateral creative leaps of imagination that defined the industry in the first place are quietly falling by the wayside."

CREATIVE - Simon Learman, joint executive creative director, McCann Erickson

"It comes down to your philosophical approach. I went to art school so I was taught to draw - judging the position of things on the paper is how you art direct.

"Photoshop is brilliant, but you should not come to it until you have a real feel for what you want to do. Computers give answers, drawings ask questions.

"Technology also means that you often spend too much time getting ready for the presentation - because of that you're not presenting ideas. It doesn't leave much room for change and you're not allowed to make mistakes. Also, with Photoshop, everyone sits down with the same amount of tools and applications; with drawing you have millions of different tools to hand. It's about balance. What you use all depends on when the client wants sign-off."

CREATIVE - Jon Williams, executive creative director, Grey London

"Technology is not killing creative at all. It helps accelerate the process - we actively encourage creatives to use technology, and if they can't, we train them.

"It's not about using technology to create an idea, it's about getting to the visual stage quickly to aid the client. The idea has to come first. Any client with creative understanding knows that what they are being presented is not the ad they'll get at the end.

"It also helps to include the client all the way through the process, which means changes can be made all the time.

" The world has changed, there is much more visual stimulus so clients and consumers need more of this in their presentations - that's what technology helps with. The closer you are with your client, the better it works."