How Technology Has Changed the Creative Process (and Why It’s a Good Thing)

Technology has come a long way since the typewriter era of advertising.  It’s hard to believe that in 1990, 99% of households had no internet.  We’ve seen massive technological advancements over the past 40 years, from the Internet of Things to cell phones to blockchain, which have impacted not only our personal lives, but the way we market products as well. Things like digital video, which only got a dedicated platform with YouTube in 2005, have exploded in just a short time.  New research reveals that almost 60% of advertisers’ budgets are allocated to digital video, and nearly half of these advertisers plan on upping this spend over the next year, a shift from the dominance of cable TV ads in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Launch Principal Dave Wilgus understands this shift – indeed, he’s lived it.  Growing up, Dave had a passion for art, design, and film, which led to the start of his advertising career with an internship at TracyLocke in the late ‘70s.  While the casual jeans-and-T-shirt uniform of his early advertising days is the same, just about everything else has changed. “This is going to make me sound ancient, but when I began my career the technology being used in advertising at the time was primitive compared to what we use today,” Dave says.  “Before computers, we drew marker comps by hand to illustrate advertising ideas for client presentations.  I still carry a few Xacto blade scars from the early days.”

Does tech help or harm creativity?

Now, of course, things that took ages to create can be done much more quickly thanks to technology.  But what’s been the real impact of technology on creativity?  And has technology made it easier or harder to be creative?  The answer lies somewhere in between. “We believe that great creative starts with a strong consumer insight,” he says. “Our creative approach is always closely tied to consumers’ needs and identified through listening and research. Technology really allows us to collect more targeted audience data than in the past and that helps us get to better insight-driven ideas, making it easier to be more creative.” Of course, problems arise when large companies abuse customer data instead of respecting customer data privacy, generating distrust between brands and consumers.  It’s this trust that has become crucial to building a successful brand – more than one in three consumers cite trust as their top reason for shopping with a certain company. “This aggravation has birthed new technologies like ad blockers to keep advertisers away, making it harder to be creative,” Dave notes.

Limitations breed opportunities

While it’s only natural that consumers would take steps to protect their privacy, there are still plenty of non-invasive opportunities for advertising professionals to experiment with delivering messages. “Our creative philosophy has not changed, but our processes have evolved to put new emphasis on creative collaboration involving diverse technology expertise,” he says. It’s collaboration that has always been at the heart of advertising, and that collaboration will help agencies adapt to future technological changes. “The creative process is really about breaking down those siloes,” Dave says.  “We might include a traditional writer and art director team along with an interactive designer, social content creator, and digital media expert on a new project. Harnessing the collective energy and technological expertise of the agency leads to better ideas.”

Embracing Tech to Create Great

Bringing these areas of expertise together often leads to innovative uses of new technologies.  Dave points to the recent “JFK Unsilenced” ad from Irish agency Rothco on behalf of the Times of London as one example, which uses artificial intelligence and thousands of data points to help Kennedy deliver the speech he’d been scheduled to give on the day of his death. “I grew up here in Dallas and my father-in-law was a reporter waiting at the Trade Mart for Kennedy to deliver the speech,” he says. “Being able to hear JFK’s actual voice give that speech is a powerful experience and is a great example of how to use technology to engage a worldwide audience with a brand whose mission is to deliver innovative storytelling and insightful journalism to the global community it serves.” The creative use of AI in this spot points to the limitless potential of technology to make messages that would have never before been possible.  And more traditional digital paths are opening to marketers, like the recently launched IGTV, which presents new avenues in the realm of video. “We have to be hungry for what’s next and always looking for ways brands can leverage technology to attract and engage consumers,” Dave says.  “Of course, the ultimate challenge for creatives in the future will be the same challenge we face today – engage and influence people who don’t want to be interrupted by ads!”