Dave Henderson (left) and Richard Denney, executive creative directors at DLKW Lowe
Dave Henderson (left) and Richard Denney, executive creative directors at DLKW Lowe
A view from Dave Henderson and Richard Denney

Creativity demystified: How to spot it and what it actually is

Creativity - a word that is bandied around, but a concept that we rarely stop and think about. What does it actually mean? Would we be able to identify a creative work? Dave Henderson and Richard Denney, executive creative directors at DLKW Lowe, share what creativity means to them.

After gravity, creativity is probably the most powerful force in nature. Creativity is actually the conscious process of problem solving -  whether it's a thrush figuring that a stone is the ideal implement  for cracking snail shells, an early hunter-gatherer having the whizzo idea to create a fence around those oxen, or the Wright brothers figuring a way to get airborne.

All of these require creativity and it’s something most living creatures are capable of - if they’re given the room to apply it.

Creativity is ultimately a gift of nature and it’s something we use heavily in marketing and advertising because each task has lots of problems to solve.

Creativity is ultimately a gift of nature and it’s something we use heavily in marketing and advertising because each task has lots of problems to solve. It's a force we can harness to make people feel or think about a message or brand.

For instance, how do we talk to price conscious shoppers in a way that stands out from the other big supermarkets who have pretty much the same message to put across? Or how can we get people to think about Dementia in a new way and mobilise millions of people to give a helping hand?

What tends to happen within the narrower confines of what we do is use the word creativity to describe ‘artistic’ elements of the problem solving we do everyday - creative use of writing, direction, photography and typography being just a few, but ultimately these are just parts of the whole problem solving process.

Too familiar or bland to be noticed?

All advertising and marketing is designed to solve a problem. However, not all of it can be described as creative as it often breaks a simple rule - it’s too familiar or bland to stand any chance of being noticed. So it just isn’t really solving the whole problem. We tend to describe ads as being creative because they come at a familiar problem in a new, unexpected and inventive way. Suddenly, we notice them.

A constantly changing concept?

We think opinions are changing constantly, because the sheer body of work created means that we are always judging work against what has gone before. This is particularly true of those who work on the agency side, because we constantly immerse ourselves in work from across the globe…but perhaps less so with consumers in the real world.

One thing that's never changed though is the sheer delight everyone feels when they see or hear any communications idea, whatever it is, that they recognize as being clever, thought provoking, witty or entertaining. It’s an amazing thing and has to be the ultimate aim of everything we’re all trying to do. This is where we see that the ‘force’ of creativity, when applied correctly, does indeed have an equal and opposite effect.

The effect of data on creativity

Data is often just information that can be used to help target or tune a message but ultimately doesn’t crack the main problems that usually have to be solved.

When data gets exciting for us is when it’s used to track trains arriving on a platform to trigger a digital shampoo poster in which the models hair suddenly blows as if caught in the draught.  We like it because it has a direct effect on the main task, making people notice yet another poster that features yet another model with the ubiquitous great hair.