What is pervasive creativity in the era of Social Media?

by Laurent François

I recently had to write an essay for Ogilvy about what pervasive creativity could mean. Here are some of my first insights.


As Zygmunt Bauman says, we live in the era of liquid modernity.

Before: when an issue arose, we used to go to “solid” icons: local institutions, Church, family. To the senior professionals of the linear function we belonged to.

It has all changed: now you have less and less time to solve more and more problems. As time is scarce, attention economy is at stake: what drives your journey is a quest of relevancy.

It’s true for consumers, who own the power to allocate time to a brand or not. As they’re in a hurry, they trust their peers & new peers. They ask Mr Google and see that results are shaped by Mr Doe and his followers.

This holds even more relevance for us, as agency professionals: if we want to sell ads or messages that are powerful valuable propositions for our public, we therefore need to see where the value lies. And be able to manage and transform it ourselves.

Think about this “brief” we’ve all had from a client: “I want to leverage buzz for my brand new product”; you cannot respond with a simple, solid process. Or pretend to. There’s a creative noise to approach, understand and overtake.

Creativity does not (only) belong to Art Directors and Copywriters

Most of the time, if you ask someone where creativity is, he’ll answer you something like “2nd floor”. If you ask what creativity is, it is utterly more complicated.

According to David Ogilvy, creativity is a dynamics:

    “I do not regard the advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information”

Content is the core of creativity. And relevant content feeds from diverse outlooks: research, listening, and strategic shaping…It’s our own mission to consider ourselves as part of a global creativity.

In an economy dominated by attention, creativity is more and more about telling stories to the public. Andy Green defines creativity as “not novelty for its own sake, but it must produce some form of value that can be recognized by a 3rd party”. Therefore, creativity must be considered as a multifunctional and shared asset among every entity as an internal fuel.

From consumers to “insumers”: the need to become “embedded” communication professionals

Citizen-consumers are communicating everywhere online, about everything. They aggregate what matters, denunciate the things which hurt them. Word-of-mouth is not blurry intuition anymore that you cannot measure. Consumers are in fact “insight consumers” a.k.a. insumers. You can now test and taste them, read the feeds and challenge the beliefs for our clients. You need to “embed” conversations, because they are your final judges. It’s your personal responsibility to become a “hub” of information for all the things related to your daily work. Understanding this noise is a permanent and progressive asset: you learn how to analyze your discoveries and you optimize the way you absorb key learnings.

As Smartphones can be perceived as true “social browsers” in real world, people must become social professionals too! What shall we get from our individual engagements? Let’s quote Rory Sutherland:

    “Poetry is when you make new things familiar and familiar things new,” remarking that this could be a definition of advertising.

…of adverting or communication in general!

Being curious and open-minded to a huge amount of flows are our personal missions. But Ogilvy as a group should be able to “track” emerging trends and in a sense to favour serendipity. Accidental discoveries generally lead to small revolutions and at the end to big steps forward. Creativity, if we consider it as the transformation of a tension to satisfy one’s need, could be reinforced.

From interactive knowledge management to experiencing creativity

Technology gave new tools to share tips and tricks. Newsletters, newsgroups, “online labs” are first steps to engage communication professionals into common objectives. But simple interactions inside communications groups are not enough. Because interactions are made by people who suffer from a lack of time, and who cannot naturally engage conversations with people they absolutely don’t know.

Think about hyperlinks on the Internet: if no one brings you to the right path, you can waste a lot of time, then leave. If search engines are far less relevant at the end than search friends (think about Twitter), then it means that personal involvement must be supported by a structure. Otherwise, we would destroy value and as Amartya Sen once wrote: “a diversity of cultures can cross one another like boats in the night”

Experiencing creativity could take the form of local “champions” who could enter a discipline they’re originally not from, to generate positive conflicts. Think about a PR executive who would have to work with a creative team to define the next Perrier: he’ll certainly think differently than an AD and will try to “impose” a story against graphic or design ideas.

As a pervasive (and open) conclusion: reputational democracy management

Creativity is not an end in itself as we’ve seen. To become pervasive, its story should have a beginning, a stage 2 and an undefined end. Creativity does not belong to someone, but is a very diffuse and changing resource; therefore, if we want to achieve a full pervasive creativity model, we could probably try to adapt the “reputational democracy model” (David Weinberger) implemented during Obama’s campaign: the movement detected and allocated a part of the candidates’ reputation for very specific tasks to unexpected people. The work-in-progress was followed and analyzed through social networks, which was a way to provide directions without being too coercive nor too vague. This reputational loop is a way to go beyond interactive models: any engaged contributor became in a sense the shareholder of the whole group reputation, with missions, and rewards.

In a sense, to implement a pervasive creativity model, we need to become…pervasive ourselves!

5 Responses to “What is pervasive creativity in the era of Social Media?”

  1. Wow, very thought provoking article. I especially love the phrase "attention economy". I really enjoyed the way you tried to explain creativity as a tangible thing instead of the generally accepted abstract concept.

  2. thanks so much 😉

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