Justin Pahl

Partner Content


Creativity Is The Skill Of The Future

The idea of opportunity seems to be tethered to new technologies. VMLY&R London's CEO says we need more creative minds to unlock the potential that new technology brings

By Justin Pahl

Conversations - both business and pleasure - have lately been dominated by visions of the future. The metaverse, NFTs, and crypto: a holy trinity of technology has emerged that is signifying the dawn of a new age.

And it’s a conversation that isn’t going anywhere fast. With Facebook's recent announcement of its new (debatable) parent company name and that it will hire 10,000 people in Europe to develop metaverse services, combined with NFT being 2021’s official word of the year, it’s clear we are entering an exciting phase of our evolution as a society.

But for businesses across the globe, the idea of ‘opportunity’ that seems to be tethered to the new technology has the potential to cause unease. It’s an uneasiness that is born out of not knowing where to begin and how to do it right. How do I utilise NFTs? What will my business look like in the metaverse? How do I even get there?

These are all questions that businesses will be asking themselves as consumers come to expect greater digital experiences from the brands they interact with. But finding the answer to those questions doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Creative minds will be instrumental in helping businesses unlock the potential that new technology brings. Our industry has always shown a mild obsession with the newest products and services – whether it’s Amazon's Astro robots or the bells and whistles on Apple's iOS 15 mobile operating system. This fascination is understandable. With serious investment in everything from immersive retail spaces and specialist gaming units to centres of excellence, creatively minded agencies are essential for helping businesses build more meaningful connections with people. 

But far beyond their expertise in understanding tech, creatively minded agencies can play a critical role in helping client partners genuinely benefit from their investment in technology. They think further than adoption and have the insight to help organisations design cultures and processes around the technology they invest in.

Telling the story of tech 

From this perspective, an agency partner's role is design in its broadest sense, helping develop a framework to meet clear market challenges. But their involvement can go beyond that. Where they excel is in shaping the most compelling narrative to sell a product or service. They should apply the same creative principles to help businesses engage people within their organisation and, ultimately, their audiences around new technology opportunities.

This sees them identifying and telling the strongest story to ensure people at all levels are buying into technology and digital transformation across an organisation. In the same way that good advertising encourages people to try a new product, they need to show value. They also need to understand the nuances of how people, for instance, adopt AI solutions to fuel a data strategy and then market these solutions in compelling ways. 

Being seen as a thought leader and trusted partner is a significant component. Not everyone will be as enthused or willing to get on board, and a need will arise to build excitement and present benefits, encouraging teams to interact more closely with new tech. 

As new tech is implemented, creative minds will create the best experiences and help teams understand the role of said technology as their organisations mature. AI solutions and other innovations arriving will be intimidating for many.

And there's definite room for improvement here, with just 50 per cent of staff and 64 per cent of managers being satisfied with the resources they have at their disposal to learn how to use new technology, according to research from PwC.

People may also experience anxiety over whether emerging technologies will replace their roles. While these fears are often misplaced, it highlights the need to help leaders understand the value their teams bring. It will enable them to think about tech as a partner in the team dynamic and communicate this adeptly across their organisation.

The importance of culture 

Creative agencies are primed to help shape cultures and environments where humans are at the heart of technological enablement. It comes down to the principles of good design, creating stories and creating a culture that embraces technology as an enabler.

This focus on culture is essential when organisations are progressing down the road of digital transformation and face significant challenges in meeting customer expectations through every experience and touchpoint.

Let's not forget the pressures on leaders and the balance sheet too. CMOS and CIOs are continually offered new solutions that may deliver a 2 per cent uplift in performance while requiring considerable investment if used straight out of the box.

Their agency partner can play a significant role in improving this picture by helping to instil a strong creative transformation culture. This demonstrates how the capacity for creating compelling stories fits within designing frameworks for organisations. Creative partners can help identify the right technology for brands against a particular problem and then apply their creativity to deliver more successful adoptions and outcomes.

Thankfully, for the creatively led, everything from the metaverse to household robots and AI solutions needs a story - anything that brings businesses closer to people, really.

Justin Pahl is the London chief executive of VMLY&R.

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