Does technology get in the way of creativity? Five things to think about
A view from Caitlin Ryan

Does technology get in the way of creativity? Five things to think about

Tech for tech's sake is the death of creativity, but technology can be an enabler when it's embraced correctly, says Cheil London's executive creative director.

Technology has been accused of getting in the way of creativity and it's split the industry down the middle. 

Let’s be clear – tech for tech’s sake is a waste of time. There’s no point having reams of consumer data at your fingertips if you haven’t got the killer creative thinking to connect with those very customers.

But while tech for tech’s sake is the death of creativity, technology can be an enabler when it’s embraced correctly.

1. Technology is the enabler 

Technology can connect a customer with a brand and that’s interesting. Tech gives us humans the information and space for creative inspiration within our cultural landscape. There’s a reason why you're getting relevant and compelling Instagram ads that are a welcome distraction. Social media remains a great vehicle for our creativity, but there will be new mediums and formats, such as mixed reality driven applications, which will continue to revolutionise our industry. 

2. Tech can seriously enhance our creativity 

Technology isn’t a sparkly bauble sold to a biddable marketer by an agency with an eye on a headline and a quick buck. Just think about eSight, the over-eye visor that helps legally blind people navigate via a combined high-definition camera and video display. This isn't a bauble, it's progression.

Technology enables us to enhance and enrich the meaning of a brand or product and make it unique and useful. It plays a special and new part in our lives where we can’t imagine how we coped without it before – just imagine life without Laundrapp or Deliveroo. Dire.

3. Here’s what we're doing

At Cheil, we embrace this culture and feed it. Think of a product packaging that forecasts the weather, retail shelves that deliver customer reviews or car keys that tell you the condition of the roads. All of these products provide something beyond just utility and would have seemed almost magical just a few years ago. 

But these are live Cheil projects. They show technology can play a bigger part in consumers’ lives than the likes of a one-off Pokemon-style AR stunt that, while fun, will quickly disappear into ephemera or become usurped by something else.

4. We must keep creating meaningful products

When connected tech brands lock consumers into engaging relationships they become a frictionless part of the experience. These brands tap into people's rituals and become an integral part of them.

Alexa can turn on everything from lightbulbs to lawn sprinklers or order the latest Netflix box set, you can turn up your heating at home from the office using Nest, and Google Home can tell you how the Tube is running before you head out to the theatre. With Google Lens, you’ll be able to point your smartphone camera at a restaurant and get the latest reviews.

These developments show that the industry is getting better at knowing what our customers want thanks to the creativity unlocked by data analytics. By 2020, more than 40% of all data analytics projects will relate to an aspect of customer experience according to Gartner stats. But we can’t get complacent.

5. Why tech needs to be at the heart of the creative process

Technology can be the bedazzling part of the advertising process, but it must be backed up with something enduring that continually shows the utility the brand provides. Ultimately, it comes down to a consumer’s immersion in a connected brand experience and not them feeing bemused by their brief reflection in a shiny bauble dangled in front of them.

Caitlin Ryan is executive creative director of Cheil London.