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Creativity in the connected age

Becca O'Shea

Little Giant art director Becca O'Shea is part of the leadership team at Little Giant, an agency that was recently named New Zealand’s Digital Agency Of The Year. She was an also a interactive judge at last year’s Best Design Awards. Here, she shares why businesses who focus on designing remarkable brand experiences come out on top. 

Today, businesses who focus on delivering remarkable brand experiences come out on top. This single truth is having a massive effect on client marketing requests, and in turn, what they need from their agency. It is motivating how clients judge agency creative, as well as where they allocate budgets going forward.

For us ‘creatives’, this is both a challenge, and an opportunity. The opportunity being that our ideas have never been more influential – our clients now require creativity at a consultancy level, and across all business touchpoints. This gives us the power to impact true organisational growth and change, beyond the world of adland creativity. The challenge is, that in order to produce impactful ideas in the connected age, we need to encourage innovation, recruit new expertise, and develop new ways of working.

Here are a few initiatives we have implemented at Little Giant which have helped us adapt to this new era of creative thinking.

The creative threesome (less sexy than it sounds).

How do we adapt our creative approach to ensure our ideas continue to drive success for our clients, in a world dominated by digital experiences?

At Little Giant it started by rethinking the traditional creative pair. When operating with traditional creative pairs we saw a real disconnect between ideation and production. We needed our ideas, and the digital experiences that typically execute them to be one and the same. We needed to integrate creative and digital thinking.

To solve this problem we expanded our creative teams to include an Art Director, Copywriter and Digital Product Designer. With UX, UI, Art Direction and Copywriting skills working collaboratively together within an environment that champions digital thinking, the output is more powerful, and meets our clients creative needs more accurately. Maybe we solve a problem with a piece of creative communication and an above the line media campaign, but maybe we solve it with a social campaign, a new digital experience, a new brand, digital product or service.

It’s a new initiative for us that’s showing promise, perhaps not the final solution, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Blowing up your departments.

Many agencies consist of siloed departments based on expertise; strategy, creative, digital, account service etc. Each responsible for a particular part of the process. The project is passed from discipline to discipline like a baton in a relay race.

From a creative perspective it means ideas are created in a vacuum, away from the technology in which they are typically executed. Considering where audiences’ eyeballs and clients’ expectations have turned, it seems absurd that technology, and the people that understand it, don’t have a significant role in the strategic or creative process. From an agency perspective, departmental borders foster a culture of finger pointing between departments, limiting opportunities for knowledge sharing and collaboration, and ultimately lessening team enjoyment and engagement. With departmental borders, no member can feel a sense of ownership in the solution, just their portion of the project or deliverable.

At Little Giant we’ve dismantled our departments and moved to cross-discipline teams that consist of Client Services, Producers, Strategists, Art Directors, Copywriters, Product Designers and Developers. Supported by a group of specialists and craft leads, these cross-discipline teams work in collaboratively with our clients to create opportunities and solve problems right across their business.

Each team has the same objectives to meet, so naturally they work together more collaboratively, and knowledge sharing is also greatly increased between disciplines. This allows our teams to expand their understanding outside their particular discipline, and because they were all involved in the ideation phase they take natural ownership in the solution, and this drives initiative. Additional benefits we have found are that the client becomes more involved in the project team, resulting in a more enjoyable and respectful working relationship. Having the opportunity to work consistently with the same businesses drives a deeper understanding of a client’s organisation, which helps us add more value.

Stay curious.

Creativity and innovation go hand in hand. How do we foster a culture of innovation to ensure our ideas are always created with an appropriate understanding of tools, trends and consumer needs? If digitisation of brands is the wave we're riding, it's our job to keep our heads above water.

There is no easy answer to this. But rather a variety of initiatives that can help. Whether you move to cross-disciplinary teams as discussed above or not, find a way to get your technology and creative talent sharing ideas and interests.

At Little Giant we run lunch and learns and ideation workshops. This gives members of a particular team the opportunity to share a technology they are excited about, or discuss the way they work, with an audience of varying disciplines. It drives interest in new technologies, and allows us to utilise these capabilities in potentially our next ‘big idea’.

Modern creatives operating in a rapidly changing environment need to be genuinely passionate, enthusiastic and curious about the tools which allow them to communicate their ideas. That means fostering a love for innovation and the technology that drives it. High quality resources from which to seek knowledge have never been more accessible, take this opportunity to form a habit of curiosity and learning. Seek out expertise beyond your office walls. Participate in thought leadership events outside of your field. Invest in new technology, integrate it into your daily life. Only by immersing yourself in technology will you be able to grow and adapt adequately within this constantly changing landscape.

Recruiting young creative talent is another way we can inspire digital thinking within our creative teams. These ‘digital natives’ can expose us to new opportunities in both the market, and the kind of technology we can work with. This experience and curiosity is infectious and can influence digital ideation across more senior members. For students especially this highlights a real opportunity to accelerate your career, if you can provide agencies with both a solid creative ideation and an understanding of current and emerging tech.

Creating meaningful solutions that extend to (and are often driven by) technology requires a shift in mindset. We are no longer shackled to adland creativity, we can solve problems beyond the traditional mediums we’re used to. Now is the time for us to embrace the evolution of our industry, rethink the way we work and get excited about the power of creative thinking in a digital world.

  • Becca is part of the leadership team at Little Giant, an agency that was recently named New Zealand’s Digital Agency Of The Year. An extremely talented visual designer, illustrator and art director, Becca has worked with many of New Zealand's most well-known brands including Hell Pizza, Fat Freddy's Drop, Garage Project and Stuff. She has been well awarded during her time at Little Giant, and was an interactive judge at last year’s Best Design Awards.

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