If you want to see the face of Ben Jones light up, bring up super-fast 3D printing, magnetic circuitry boards or multi-view cameras. The Chief Technology Officer at AKQA believes access to tools like these are revolutionising creativity. “Imagine a world where we can think about things, solve things in our minds using our imagination and then create the solution within a few hours,” he says. “That’s where we’re coming into, a true maker’s world.”
I was a coder in the financial industry; I made retail banking loan applications and all sorts of really boring things. Then went to a big five consulting firm and worked on some phenomenal clients, but in industries where you never saw the fruits of your labour – you could never even speak about it. I wanted the ability to do a piece of work and then phone your mum and say, “Look what I’ve done.” All I wanted to do was create and use my imagination, but in the world of banking there’s limited opportunity to use your mind that way.
When I interviewed at AKQA, I didn't know what an agency was. I walked through the door sort of nonchalantly and arrogantly. There was a guy who greeted me coming out of the lift with a massive Mohican, walking along with this single speed bike. And I was like, “This is different.” Luckily, they asked me to join. It as a bit like a child who first goes into dance class – their face alights with glee because they can see the opportunity to be free. It felt like I could actually utilise my imagination and mind and skill set and desire that I’ve got to solve problems that we all face today.
I get goosebumps when I think about the technologies that are available to people and what you can potentially do with them. We’ve just got a littleBits kit, little snappable magnetic circuitry boards. Adults or even children are able to make things literally within an hour. From an idea that you had sitting in the sunshine in the garden, all of a sudden you can go and create something and it will be available for people to buy. I think having circuitry and electronics available to everyone anywhere around the world is exciting; we’re going to see an unbelievable level of progress. It’s like another world, a maker’s world.
Something we’ve always said at AKQA is if you’re going to build something, democratise what is elite and make it for everyone. Kids of tomorrow will be able to code from school, snap these magnetic things together, print off circuitry boards from printers with conductive inks. So if as a creative you stick your head in the sand about the realities of life and don’t harness the fact that anyone can become a maker, you’re going to lose. At the moment we call it crowdsourcing, but it’s just going to be the way that things happen tomorrow.
Instead of thinking that you’ll own the whole solution, harness that culture into your ideation process. Look at the wider market and the ideas and the minds and the thoughts and the processes out there, and literally use that as the ultimate creative toolkit. Add to that some special sauce from yourself in terms of storytelling, because that’s what creators are really good at. Beautiful storytelling makes it an experience of emotion, which is what is needed to be able to truly resonate and endure. If you think with the maker’s attitude and you focus on the beautiful storytelling, you’re going to win.
The reason that people need to look at YouTube as a core element to their consumer strategies is simply this: what every person who’s successful on YouTube does is have an authentic relationship with the audience. People think that YouTube is a broadcast channel. In fact for brands, it’s much more of a listening channel. It’s a network, it’s social media. Focus on being authentic. Rather than trying to sell, just focus on simplicity and conversation. If you can have conversations and listen to what people are truly saying and the way they're engaging through that conversation, then you’ll win. Listen, don’t broadcast.