What creativity means to me – Dominic Basulto, The Washington Post

Dominic Basulto, Innovation Columnist for The Washington Post and Digital Strategist at Bond Strategy & Influence, boils it down to what advertising should be about: emotional connectivity.

How do you define creativity?
For me, creativity in advertising means conveying an important idea or theme
within an entertaining package in a way that has never been done before. That originality might be the result of a new storytelling technique that changes the narrative arc, new technology that empowers the audience, or simply framing the story from an entirely new vantage point. When you do this well, it means that people watching the ad will realize that there are real people behind a brand or company, and that these people care passionately about a particular cause or issue. The best brands are able to capture this passion and interpret it artistically.

What does this mean for you?
Technology has changed the way that people think about advertising. We live in a
digital world where advertising messages reach us in new ways 24/7. There’s no
doubt that this presents problems for an advertiser – to get a message out in a way
that will reach people and resonate with them. When people typically think about
clutter in advertising, they think about trying to break through all this clutter with
something highly entertaining. That’s only part of what “creativity in advertising” is
about – it’s also about embedding an important idea inside this highly entertaining
package that will inspire people to talk about it and share it with others. The hardest
part is figuring out what this idea should be and being able to describe it in a way
that is applicable for as many people as possible.

An “ad worth spreading” is an ad that registers at the emotional level and triggers
something that is deep and profound about the human condition. This can happen
even with products that we don’t think of as “profound” – like automobiles. If you
think about last year’s winner of the TED “Ads Worth Spreading” initiative, the
Chrysler Super Bowl ad campaign with Eminem (“Imported From Detroit”) was
brilliant on so many levels: by connecting automobiles with the story of Detroit, a
once-proud industrial city, Chrysler challenged people to think about the past and
future greatness of America. Using Eminem as the voice of this message connected it
to a much wider audience.

As a writer and journalist, I’m always on the look out for new ways to tell stories as
well as new voices that are unique in the way they construct a narrative and draw
in readers. I find that many of these highly creative individuals are influenced by
wide exposure to a number of different areas, many of which are only tangentially
related. By combining their knowledge and experiences in new ways, they are able
to create a fundamentally new approach to creativity.

What recent work from a brand do you believe is creatively brilliant?
One of the ads that I was impressed by recently was Chipotle’s “Back to the Start,”
a short film with music from Coldplay performed by Willie Nelson that emphasizes
the importance of developing a sustainable food system

The ad works on so many different levels: you can view it purely as entertainment,
in terms of the video animation and the music. Or, you can think about the deeper
issue at the core of Chipotle’s work, which is to celebrate the sustainable farming
movement. In terms of spreading this ad, Chipotle has created a “making of” video to
support “Back to the Support,” and has made it possible to download the soundtrack
to the video on iTunes, with a significant part of the final proceeds supporting The
Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

December 19, 2011

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