Corporations hate chaos, but creativity originates from it

by Nigel Hollis | September 02, 2019

This title sums up the premise of a talk held by WARC at Cannes Lions 2019. The talk was given by Martin Weigel from W+K Amsterdam and Rob Campbell from R/GA London who promoted chaos as an enabler of creativity.

Maybe the word “chaos” was chosen to position agency planners and creatives as iconoclasts, the people who offer a radical, new point of view, but I doubt it will do much to encourage clients to view agencies as anything other than anarchists. As the Weigel acknowledges, corporations, particularly big ones, are an exercise in keeping chaos at bay. Yet, once you get past the use of the word “chaos” and its connotations with disorder, confusion and anarchy, Weigel and Campbell make some very important points about how best to foster creativity.

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The one that resonated most with me was the need to appreciate how interesting people are and not see them as “a faceless theoretical concept” which encourages seeking out convenient answers rather than delving deeper into what people feel, think and do. As Campbell notes,

 “Resonance over relevance is the most important thing that we can do to make work that people feel is them – that doesn’t speak to them but is them. It's born from within the culture, the nuance the texture, the art.”

This reminds me of this post and Damon Stapleton’s recommendation for effective advertising,

“Be distinctive. Be interesting. Be noticed. Have something to say. And say it well. Those things don’t change.”

And how do you figure out what to say? Weigel and Campbell recommend we cast a wide net and, particularly, look to the edges of category and culture to understand where things are heading, not where it is now.

As a consumer insight practitioner, I cannot but agree that real insight – the foundation of creativity – come from understanding the whole human, not just the narrow slice that buys and consumes a specific category. However, as you might expect, I disagree with Campbell’s assertion that best practice means everything ends up the same. It all depends on what that best practice is applied to. If you want to check that your creative idea resonates with normal people not just those that came up with it, then a little bit of best practice can go a long way and help justify the value of creativity to those that do not have such a positive view of chaos. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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