Applied imagination, by Havas’s Fabio Silveira

The pandemic pushed the industry into a more integrated work environment. But creativity is still at its core, writes Havas's general manager, Fabio Silveira.

By Fabio Silveira, general manager Havas Creative Dubai.

History is full of examples of how technological transformation has reshaped societies. It can create new jobs, while making others disappear completely, redistribute wealth and even rebalance the weight of power amongst nations. We are still going through the impacts of the ‘industrial revolution’ of our time and, while the digitalisation of our world already feels like ancient history, we find ourselves planning against the impacts of new waves of digital transformation.

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The tools for a more integrated world – for a work environment free from ‘physical’ constraints, for deeper and better knowledge sharing, measurement and data-inspired strategies – have been available for years, perhaps even decades, but with low incentive to become mainstream. While a few challenges, start-ups and early adopters were experimenting and pushing boundaries, mass adoption was still timid. And although a revolution starts with a few, it is mass adoption that makes it truly revolutionary.

It took a once-in-a-generation event – that locked us in our houses and made many businesses virtually impossible without the adoption of new ways of collaborating – to bring the creative industry one step closer to a more integrated work environment, with more efficient knowledge-sharing and use of data, and clear, actionable intelligence that can inspire creativity and drive communication effectiveness.

Although we are still far from reaping, and perhaps even from understanding, the full benefits that the digital transformation will bring to our industry, advertising agencies find themselves exploring the boundaries between creativity, data and performance, leveraging their networks on global platforms of collaboration and tapping into world-class talent wherever it is.

The agencies of today that are building a fit-for-future business are the ones that, while maintaining creativity at the core of this business, embrace data, measurement and the agility that it demands. Never in our history have we known so much about the way that we consume products and media, about how we relate to peers and friends, and about our likes and dislikes. Never before were we able to measure results in real-time and adapt our messaging, media and ideas, accordingly.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re still as passionate about ‘that original idea’ as anyone that has come before us. Creativity is still the driving force that moves hearts, wins minds and connects cultures. We just need to be a lot more agile on how we connect the dots between our observations and that improbable insight, or that breathtaking execution. And in the land where technology is king and agility is queen, the right team fills all other pieces on the board. Creatives and strategists that understand the insightful value of data; data scientists that know how to brief and assess good creative ideas; a structure based on trust and empowerment of talent, wherever it is; a set of tools and processes in place that creates a much quicker learning curve, leading to fast implementation, testing and, then again, more learning; decision-makers, from all actors involved, willing to try, sometimes to fail; others get it right, but we are always learning in the process.

We are, however, stuck in a continuum: We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us. This means that, as we’re just starting to absorb the impacts of digital transformation on our business, we should expect to be remodelled after it – as an industry and as a society.

And while we don’t know for sure how we will be fully transformed – and we will never know, as it’s an eternal continuum of shaping and being shaped by technology – we should invest in what is immutable in our, or any, line of business: the people that are behind it, the human element behind data points and numerical variables. Data always has inspired and always will inspire creativity, and creativity always will be and always has been validated by data. The essence behind ‘that original idea’ has not changed; the motivation that brought us to our field remains the same. We believe that imagination and inventiveness are tools to solve problems, to drive innovation, to connect with other people and to express a point of view. Originality, ingenuity and artistry are all part of it and will remain as part of it. And while the media might change, requiring more agile turnaround times and connecting more data points to different consumer behaviours, the essence of what defines us as part of the creative industry does not change. We are still in the business of applied imagination.