Does a new era of possibility need a new type of creativity?

In the latest instalment of Campaign's Smarter Working series, Saatchi & Saatchi's CEO argues that there’s cause to be optimistic but also a need for a new form of creativity.

The British economy is growing at its quickest rate for 80 years, job vacancies have surged past one million for the first time on record; VC funds have invested nearly $4bn (£2.9bn) more in start-ups than in 2020; the number of trademarks and patent applications has doubled since 2015; and advertising spend is growing at 18.2% this year, which would represent the largest annual growth on record, overtaking 1988's 15.9%.

We might not be back at the levels of the roaring twenties just yet, but such markers of economic optimism would suggest there is a more positive bet on what 2022 could bring as we enter a new era of possibility and come full tilt out of our Covid-induced slumber.
 
And, when we look out into modern Britain, we also see new possibilities emerging in popular culture.
 
Who would have thought an unseeded 18-year-old could win the US Open and become one of the darlings at the Met Ball, and a returning 37-year-old could have the goal-scoring and record-breaking shirt sale effect in his first few games at Manchester United? Who could have predicted the riot of colour and energy emanating from London Fashion Week as that industry put itself back on the map. And who foresaw a 900% increase in normal pre-booked tickets at local cinemas for a 53-year-old's swan-song in No Time to Die?
 
I'm an unashamed optimist, and right now it feels like anything is possible as we hit "reset" on how we live, think and act. The world will continue to expect more from brands, and we need to evolve a new era of creativity to deliver this.
 
I know it has been hard to get petrol, and we might not have all the trimmings at Christmas this year (although we will be together with loved ones, versus last year, which is a win, right?). But, as an industry, it feels like there is a decision to make as to how we lead, and doubling down on the side of positivity over pessimism is what culture needs after 18 months of challenge.
 
So what can we do?
 
Taking a lead from the fashion industry, let's start with how we bring positivity and optimism to the messages we are putting out in the world. We no longer need pessimistic, purpose-driven work reminding us of what we have been through. It's time for a fresh energy to chart how we can change a world where anything is possible.
 
We need more super-stylised upbeat work – like Diet Coke's "Just because" from Droga5, which signals that everything is going to be alright, or "For When its time from Extra gum" from Energy BBDO. And we need some simple things that are just a bit weird or beautiful, like "Vegamama" from Wagamama and Uncommon, or the latest Burberry "Open spaces" work.
 
It's time for us all to loosen up a bit, have some fun, and unleash the best of our creativity.
 
And, as we create these new messages of momentum, it will be increasingly important as people go back out into the real world again to evolve models of delivery to partner consumers on their reawakening journey to be in the moment with them.
 
It's an obvious thing to say as the new CEO of Saatchis, but BT's "Hope United" at the Euros is a great example of this second need for evolution. Creating a model of delivery that used the voices of some of the country's best-known football talent at one of the country's biggest cultural moments, created a more targeted, in-the-moment connection and conversation.
 
It would be cool to see more output like this that shapes a market not just through deep insight but through creativity in a connective media model to drive conversations that play a clear role in the lives of its consumers.
 
A final evolution might be in how we find a new way of getting the most out of our industry's talent that both fits with their evolving working lives, but really unlocks the ability to represent the diverse voices of the country we are meant to serve.
 
As we see a continued rise in a distributed workforce and a desire for the industry's talent to make work work, with life, maybe there is an opportunity to broaden our talent pools to open deeper and more meaningful ways to find inspiration for, and unlock how we lead culture beyond our Soho echo chamber.
 
There is great work coming out of Leo's for McDonalds, or Uncommon for Google, or Mother for KFC, that is making good strides in representing the populist and diverse nature of the UK. But, I wonder, if we can use this moment to bring a more distributed and diverse workforce into our industry, then maybe we can make work that really does shape creativity and culture in modern Britain as well as reflect it.
 
Thinking back to my experience in LA leading 72andSunny, we saw the shift in the US from Silicon Valley to a "Silicon Anywhere" model, which enables the best of talent to represent the regions it wants to work in is an inspiring learning.
 
As I said, I am an unashamed optimist, but as we enter this moment of "reset" and new possibility, could this be a great period for our industry in leading the country and defining a new era of creativity?
 
This article was first published by Campaign

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