Thoughts from OMMA Global: Creativity &/or Form

Jack Blog

September 28th, 2010 By Jack Morton

Though Crispin, Porter + Bogusky’s Jeff Benjamin had some big shoes (Alex Bogusky’s) to fill, he offered some valuable commentary on the importance of creativity in breathing life into any online experience, even if it’s just a banner ad: [paraphrased] It’s not about the different types of boxes we can use. Rather, it’s the what we put into those boxes that matters.

The fourteen-line constraints of the sonnet and the rigidity of iambic pentameter, Benjamin reminded listeners, arguably enhanced Shakespeare’s creative genius. More specifically, brilliant creativity within the context of widely recognizable form, Benjamin seems to suggest, has the capabilitiy of resonating more strongly with a broader audience than more novel forms of creativity.

A different spirit, however, was championed in the paneled session “Why Can’t I Sell Games to My Clients?” – particuarly, by Gaia Online’s Chris Davis. Standardization of advertising forms (e.g., banner ads), Davis argued, is the killer of creativity. Gaia – which calls itself an “online hangout, incorporating social networking, forums, gaming and a virtual world” – offers brands opportunities to integrate messaging and experiences into their online, virtual world (which caters largely to teenagers). Beyond novelty, gaming reportedly offers competitive advantages to tradtitional advertising: longer engagement, a captive audience, and more natural interactions with brands (if executed well).

So which side is right? Which is more important to engaging audiences—creativity or form? Both views, in a sense, are right, I think.

Creativity – and, more practically, content – will always be king. Regardless of the medium it may utilize, any sticky message must hinge on a good idea. And, for most audiences, messages conveyed through standard forms may be more identifiable as messages they should (or shouldn’t listen to). But, the ‘standard’ forms of messaging are constantly changing; what is novel today is ‘standard’ tomorrow. Mobile marketing, for instance, is becoming an increasingly ‘standard’ (and, indeed, necessary) notion to understand. Mary Meeker predicts our content consumption of the mobile internet will surpass PC-accessed internet usage by 2014.

Beyond content, however, creativity also characterizes the identification of relevant, new opportunities to engage important audiences. Thinking ‘outside the box’ is ever-important in a world where people – namely, the younger demographic – are increasingly immune to and cynical about straight-ahead, traditional messaging, even if told in an interesting way. And, more importantly, where brands can find their audiences (cough, social media) and, hence, the forms they use to reach them are changing dramatically (e.g., the rise of the mobile internet). That is, it isn’t enough to think about what stuff to put in a box, if no one cares what’s in it. If the recipient is no longer accepting the package, it’s probably time to try a different method of delivery (okay, enough of the box imagery).

A key insight, I think, came from Jack Morton’s (woohoo!) Matt Jones (who filled in for Ian McGonnigal, who unfortunately couldn’t make it, on the gaming panel): advertising is too antiquated a word to capture what’s going on. Today’s consumers require authenticity, honesty and relevance of (most of) the brands they support. Experiences – whatever content they consist in or form they take – must embody these qualities, if they wish to capture audiences’ imaginations and touch their hearts and minds.

Perhaps, then, neither the box nor what’s in it is important, and it’s more about evoking a desired behavior from the person receiving it (the last time I talk about boxes, I swear).

A shout-out to my OMMA companion, Bruna Maia!