New Creativity for the New Culture

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Vladimir Ćosić: Advertising today has tremendous influence on our lives. As a matter of fact, it always had, just that the “quality” of the influence is different – advertisers are not only selling us the products, we are also buying into the ideas, aesthetics and higher aims served by the brands, same as we do with art.

Written by: Vladimir Ćosić, creative director McCann Belgrade

The third millennium brought with it an era of eclectic creativity, opening an enormous window of opportunity for both creators and consumers.

Thanks to digital media, almost every person on the planet has the possibility of creating content that could theoretically be seen by everyone.

Because of this, the boundaries between art and advertising that were once clearly defined have almost disappeared.
One of probably the biggest turning points in the history of the relationship between advertising and art (or more broadly between “commercial” and “personal”) happens at this very moment, mostly because of the new means of mass communication that can’t be ignored.

Amidst this uncertainty, a new phenomenon is shaping up. It’s called “fast evolution.” It is of greater proportion and a more powerful meaning than ever before when advertising, art and creativity in general are concerned.

The media in the traditional sense no longer exist – literally every action of any brand or individual via the Internet and the social networks has become accessible to everyone.

The outcome is a dramatic change in the directing of campaign budgets, and the whole area of media planning has become a field of creative expression as much as the campaign idea itself.

The production has changed as well. Many campaigns consist of a powerful message only; some of the videos made by mobile phones are way more (virally) popular than TV commercials made with enormous budgets.

Focus groups and other recently popular forms of testing the public opinion are substituted with “in vivo” tests on social networks, which are now by far easier, faster, cheaper and more flexible than any other available method.

A campaign that doesn’t go viral, doesn’t exist. “Commercials” are no longer just commercials. They “aren’t exactly advertising, but are very interesting”, they “look like commercials, but I don’t know what they are” and “I don’t know if it is some artistic act or a commercial”. They are now better known as “branded content”, which is essentially art sponsored by the brands, art with the purpose of product sale or a commercial in a new, artistic disguise.

Increasing number of brands are setting goals and missions which beside sales aim for ideals of a better world. Artists are turning to advertising methods in their work, so it comes as no surprise that it is hard to make a difference between advertising and art.
Questions like “Is Banksy’s work a campaign or art?”, “Is Pharell’s new album a commercial?”, “Is Dove’s last campaign just a psychological experiment?” are irrelevant. The boundaries between science, art and advertising are so porous that they are nearly non-existent. Brands have become modern patrons of art, scientists have become artists, advertisers have become scientists, and the artists got employed in the agencies where they are creating what they would naturally create at some other place.

The influence of advertising on our digital culture has increased to the extent that it’s on equal terms or even above art.

You are not convinced? Ultra famous Pharell’s music hit “Happy” has been seen eighty million times at this point. For the comparison, the multi Cannes Grand Prix Award winner “Dumb Ways to Die” has about seventy-five million views. The number of such examples is endless.

Let us remember that just a few years ago we were switching TV channels whenever we see a commercial, while pop stars were worshiped to idolatry. Someone may say that the number of views on Youtube is not a relevant way to measure impact on people’s lives. If you think this way, I personally believe that you are greatly mistaken. If you do not believe me, take a closer look at what teenagers are clicking on the internet and contemplate for a moment how it affects their behavior and the development of their personality. For those who need more in-depth argument, I suggest you look at any serious strategic analysis of results of specific campaigns and you will find out in a very tangible way how the campaign affected (changed) the behavior of people.

Don’t kid yourself; advertising today has tremendous influence on our lives. As a matter of fact, it always had, just that the “quality” of the influence is different – advertisers are not only selling us the products, we are also buying into the ideas, aesthetics and higher aims served by the brands, same as we do with art. Popular culture is almost unimaginable without it.

Having all of this in mind, the best campaigns of today are those that share characteristics of any other form of art: emotional potential, craftsmanship of the form inseparable from the essence, and the power of the idea to change the world for the better.
Now, do we really want all brands to be culturally famous agents of change?  And even if we did, is this realistic?

Well, as in everything, some brands will have more success than the others; but, what we can be sure is that brands with the ambition that is larger than just selling us the product are the ones that will have our attention.

Simultaneously, some artist practicing noncommercial, sometimes even autistic art forms are either doomed to oblivion or rapidly becoming more commercial, and in achieving this goal, the artists are ready to use well-tried advertising means, even to give up on the idea to be more popular among the target audience.

And this is how the boundaries between those two are rapidly disappearing. Inside this vacuum, completely new kind of creativity is rising. The word “creativity” that in the end of the last millennium became so devoid of meaning that it became unpleasantly sounding cliché, now achieved a completely new dimension, equally meaningful as ever in the human aspect, with an influence probably bigger than ever. The most exciting ideas are born on the places where science, technology, and creativity meet. The best of them are extremely relevant for people (whether we called the art lovers or consumers), changing their lives for the better in a very tangible way.

Combining truly human insights, ideas and goals with extremely smart advertising and scientific methods, “new kind of creativity” has the best of both worlds (advertising/art), and the possibilities that lay ahead are boundless. Creativity is becoming something new, undefined and very broad; it is becoming a field where creative human beings are using scientific, artistic and communicational tools of all kinds, merging and combining them in meaningful way to have greater impact than ever before.

Although it’s hard to say how the things will look ten years from now (to be honest it’s hard to say even what will be happening in next year), but it’s pretty clear that era ahead of us will be exciting – at least for the artists and brands who embrace the change and have something meaningful to say to the world.

The column contains excerpts from the text by Vladimir Ćosić, written for the book: Hacker Maker Teacher Thief: Advertising’s Next Generation, published by Creative Social Advertisings/dp/0956608337

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