Episode 1: Creativity — ambitions limited only by imagination
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Episode 1: Creativity — ambitions limited only by imaginationOctober 2023
Evolving narratives, emerging channels, and the rise of AI are fundamentally changing the way creative ideas are brought to life. Yet for AMV BBDO, it still starts with problem solving and ends with layering on meaning and emotion through beautiful storytelling.
In this conversation, joint chief creative officer, Nick Hulley, explains how approaching creativity from these two sides helps AMV BBDO supply a universal look to the world that can be used in different shapes and forms, and across many channels and audiences.
This is the first episode of ‘Marketing Now & Next’, our new mini-series in collaboration with The Drum. Watch the full video to find out why brands need to interact everywhere, how AI could remove barriers to creativity, and much more.
Jenni Baker: Hello, and welcome to "Marketing Now & Next," a three-part miniseries from The Drum and Think with Google.
Nick Hulley: Thank you very much for having me.
Jenni Baker: Excited to be in your presence, Chief Creative Officer at AMV BBDO.
Nick Hulley: Co-Chief Creative Officer with my partner Nadja Lossgott, who's on maternity leave at the moment.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, of course, Nadja. So look, Nick, you and Nadja have been described as creating genre-bending, culture-shaping work, obviously some great examples of creativity. So I'm really excited to get into this topic with you today. So I guess to kick us off, what does creativity mean to you now in 2023?
Nick Hulley: Well, I think it's probably the same as it's always been. The tools that we use to execute creativity change. But I always think creativity has two main engines. It's the creativity of storytelling as myth-building, and myth-making, and narrative, and the emotion, and story worlds, and then creativity as problem solving, just the ability to think laterally about barriers and problems that confront you. And there's surprising and amazing ways to problem-solve. And in 2023, I think that creativity, in terms of advertising and in terms of branding, it's the merging of those two engines, beautiful storytelling but in service of a solution, in service of a program, in service of some value, or starting with problem solving but layering on meaning, and emotion, and storytelling around it. So it's the merging of those two engines of creativity.
Jenni Baker: Absolutely. And, I guess, this is driven by consumer expectations changing.
Nick Hulley: Absolutely, and also the ability of people to encounter your brand or experience your brand in a multiplicity of ways. It's not just a single television ad and then a shopfront floor. You're interacting with it everywhere. So it needs to move and appear in so many places.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, so how have you been addressing that, then? And maybe how does that factor into how you approach creativity?
Nick Hulley: And the execution of it is I think that we like to find a big brand platform, a unifying thought, which supplies a point of view on the world, which supplies a tone of voice to the world, which supplies a look to the world, and then apply that big idea in all the incredible, amazing places that the brand shows up.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, and I guess in a sense, the right point to ask, what's a recent piece of work that kind of encapsulates this, something that you're really proud of?
Nick Hulley: So I think Womb Stories for Bodyform Libresse is a good example of that because that search for the big idea, that search for that platform thought that can filter through everything is powered by kind of almost a radical empathy. We want to understand people. We want to really get inside, have that empathetic understanding and be completely meaningful. And if you look at the Womb Stories work, it obviously starts from a brand platform of fearless, and that is both a sort of outward of encouraging people to not be held back, not be limited, but also a view of that the brand, if you're going to ask people to live fearlessly, you should live fearlessly yourself, and then in the specificity of the challenge to shift away from a clinical or the biological view of the relationship that you have with your body, to see that as an emotional relationship.
Nick Hulley: I think with Womb Stories, we were always struck by the fact that, if two people could have the exact same biological occurrence, the getting their period, it's the same biological experience. But the reaction or the relationship with that moment could be diametrically opposed. For somebody who wanted to get pregnant, it could be a moment of sadness and loss. And for a person who didn't want to get pregnant, that it could be a moment of absolute delight. And so it was an emotional world.
Nick Hulley: And then with that insight came a creative concept of personification of the womb, to try and create this relationship, this talk about this emotional relationship. And so we created these Womb Worlds. And that gave us a canvas to go into film. It gave us a canvas to how we collected the data to understand these experiences because that didn't-- talking about your relationship with your body in sort of metaphorical ways, it wasn't out there. And especially in relation to the womb, it didn't exist. But giving people that question unlocked all the data. It unlocked all the experiences and a new way of talking about it, which we were able to feed into our storytelling. We were able to have those cathartic moments in social media and out in the world as people were articulating and working with our sort of visualizations, to put more of that out in the world.
Jenni Baker: Absolutely. And emotion was something that came up there. Do you think creativity is sort of moving in that direction more, more generally, I guess, across the board?
Nick Hulley: Well, I think that emotion is one of those words that is often misinterpreted. People have different definitions of emotion. And I think emotion has always been present in the best advertising because everybody knows that humans like to pretend that they're rational. But they're emotional beings. Your decision making is based on emotion. So it's the most persuasive tool. But emotion is all the emotions, the ability to laugh, the ability to cry, just the ability to feel something. And that's as wide as the emotional landscape of people. So emotion is not a specific type of emotion. It's any kind of emotional reaction-- awe, wonder, joy, sadness-- and at its best, often a mixture of all of those emotions in one go.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, I think like you said, advertise-- it's got to make you feel something. And that can be, a thought, a negative thing, or--
Nick Hulley: Yeah.
Jenni Baker: No, that's great. And speaking of emotion, well, obviously, a big talk this week has been around AI. And I wonder, do you have any thoughts about how that's going to play a role in the creative process? How is that going to impact agencies? Is there potential there? What are your views on that?
Nick Hulley: Well, I think that AI is clearly not a gimmick. And it's clearly at the beginning of its sort of introduction to the world. It's so huge that it's hard to know what's coming. I think that it's probably more the invention of fire than the invention of the internet. And I think you just see the speed of-- we measure exponential discovery and exponential change in centuries, when flight was first invented. Before that, millennia and millennia of human activity without flight. Flight arrives, and it's only 100 years later, you're exploring Mars with flight. But the exponential rate that AI is going to change is not going to be centuries. It could be six months. It could be days. I think you just don't know. And I think when you look at flight, you could probably picture, once you can leave the surface of the Earth unaided, maybe people could project where they could-- how far they could travel, where they could travel. But you couldn't predict or project how it would transform the world of commerce, how it would transform travel and tourism, how it would transform culture, how it would homogenize culture. There's so many unknown things. So AI as it is today is at the beginning. And I find it impossible to predict what it will do.
Nick Hulley: But if you look at it today, I still think you probably, at least for me, it's to sort of separate two kind of functions. I think there's the production ability of AI, where we can ask the machines to create for us, to bring alive worlds. And on that, I think that has great potential because it removes barriers to what you can create. You're only limited by your imagination. Those original Egyptians writing hieroglyphics, whatever "War and Peace" novel you had inside, to get it out, you had to chisel. Now you ask something to bring it to life. So that's a very exciting tool. But it still is a tool to be used by the imaginative– and I think to not forget that it's what you feed in and how you can articulate the vision you have will determine the quality of the output. It's not a replacement for quality. It's a tool for creative quality. But then the other field is how it can become, be the imagination. And that, we don't know.
Jenni Baker: No. We will see.
Nick Hulley: But we will see.
Jenni Baker: We will see what comes. So, look, creativity. Now obviously, some amazing people in your teams. How do you foster a collaborative culture of creativity within the team? What's your secret? How do these best ideas get unlocked?
Nick Hulley: I think it's that AMV hires very curious, empathetic people, and respects the collaborative nature of that process, brilliant, interrogative, curious, strategic brains looking for those insights, looking for those nuggets, going deeper, then working with account people who are passionate and thinking of ways to bring it to life, where to bring it alive, and bringing in the creatives who are trying to make those imaginative leaps, and then everybody just constantly working together to make something better. And it's that creative ambition of, do something that hasn't been seen before, or do something in a way that hasn't been seen before. And that, I think, is the craft and the concept working together. And I think AMV still has, obviously, a very strong belief in craft. And craft is collaborative-- who you work with, how you just make everything a little bit more nuanced, a little bit better, a little bit more, which accumulates into wonderful, creative work.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, that's great, that's great. So then, I guess if we look to the future, obviously we can't predict what's coming, but are there certain ways you think the creative industries need to flex to set themselves up for success in the future?
Nick Hulley: Well, only that, again, it's the old thing, adapt or die. There are these tools that are coming, and we need to be open-minded to new ideas and willing to change and curious and experimental and brave. And even though all these tools promise all these things, it's still the power of a wonderful human stupidity to make these leaps, these creative leaps that distinguish yourself. When everybody's got the same tools, what is the distinguishing factor? It's just that beautiful human illogic that conjures up powerful emotional tools. So stay open-minded. And don't forget that ultimately, we're trying to make people feel something.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, exactly. And I know we talked a little bit about the Womb Stories. But any recent work that you're particularly proud of? Obviously, we're here in Cannes. There's been some awards given out. Anything?
Nick Hulley: Very proud of the [INAUDIBLE] from last year.
That was just sort of epic. And it's an imagination epic. And it's in the scale and how it was created. I have a fondness for the Saint Patrick's Day work for Guinness. We're making pints sing. It feels very counterintuitive. But it was just the serious message of moderation during Saint Patrick's Day but just brought to life with silly singing pints that-- you can do it joyfully. You can do it with humor. And you can capture people's imaginations, which it did. And of course, the periodsomnia work that we've done, which is a, again, another re-framing of the night, another sort of opening up a thing that was always there that nobody was thinking about, that the night is obviously anything but quiet if you're on your period. And just that thermal camera vision, it's still creativity. It's still craft. It's still storytelling but with a serious message that all these hours of sleep that are lost and the empathy, too, towards that, and making people feel understood.
Jenni Baker: Yeah, no, that's a great piece of work, for sure. So I guess, then, what we really want to get across, what advice can we offer other marketers, creative about how to unlock the– I know you've sort of mentioned a few already. But if you could leave the viewers with some actionable advice as they move forward and prepare for this new world of creativity, what would your advice be?
Nick Hulley: Well, it's not for me to offer advice. But I think anything that feels new, anything that feels transformational, everything that promises a lot, there are temptations. And there are high roads and low roads. And the temptation to believe that there are codes that can be cracked or the temptation that you can automate everything, it shouldn't be at the expense of thinking, and time, and creative magic because it's all in the craft, how you get emotion. It's all in people, allowing that punch line to land after a second, or two second, or three seconds, whatever's going to make you laugh. And that's in the details. That's in the specificity of craft. So all the temptations are out there to solve things like that. Don't forget that it's craft, and detail, and passion that delivers the emotion.
Jenni Baker: So Nick, I've got to ask, where do you get your inspiration from? Obviously, you've come up with-- you and the team, you come up with so many great ideas. So where do you get that inspiration from?
Nick Hulley: It's collaboration. It's working with Nadja and working with brilliant planners, working with brilliant people. Life is just an ongoing dialogue with people who say interesting things, that triggers an interesting thought, that makes you think in another way. So it's perpetual engagement with the world and a daily reminder to myself that I absolutely 100% don't know everything. And I just urge myself to stay curious and stay adaptable. And I just have an open mind to all the perspectives, and opinions, and all the stimulation that the world has to offer you.
Jenni Baker: Brilliant. Well, thank you so much, Nick.
Nick Hulley: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jenni Baker: Thanks for watching. And you can catch the other episodesin this series on the Think with Google YouTube page and on The Drum TV.
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