The artist formerly known as print.

The other day, in my comments section, I was accused of being a ‘print Creative Director’.

I say accused because the contributor was pretty frank about the obsolescence attached to such a label.

(I’m assuming he meant the print part.)

To be honest I didn’t take the comment that seriously, partly because I was busy setting some columns of type in Hot Metal and looking at some 10×8 transparencies just back from the lab, but mostly because I have never seen myself as being any type of creative really.

I admit I’m not a ‘digital native’ and I don’t have a lengthy Edwardian beard on my chin, but in my defence I sometimes don’t wear socks (summertime obviously).

But as I asked our studio paste-up artist, does that make me or any creative, obsolete?

‘Not at all’ he said as the fax machine churned out more copy amends from the client.

What a creative gets paid for primarily is ideas. Something that can live in any media, that transcends one particular type of production.

And what is a print creative? someone who doesn’t touch telly, radio, websites, social media or ipad apps?


Of course, the types of ideas that capture the imagination these days are often ones that avoid traditional media. New media means new ways to think, much like changing from consumer to Pharma, it allows you to play.

cancer tweets
One of the more stunning uses of twitter.

But what makes them stick in your memory isn’t the fact that they are digitally produced per se, or even that they have been shared a gazillion times or got a million likes or retweets. A tweet looks much like any other tweet, the thing that distinguishes a great one is the idea behind it.

Just like a TV ad, or a print ad

My old boss of bosses was a slick American CEO called Bob Schmetterer, a man whose very name was a hanging comparison.

I remember him evangelizing this story as an example of what we used to call CBIs (Creative business ideas) before there was any such thing.

In the late 90’s there was a new area in Buenos Aires that had been redeveloped, called Puerto Madero. The client in charge of getting people to visit the area went to an ad agency and asked for an awareness campaign.

The agency creative, a man called Jorge Heymann, looked at the problem and disregarded advertising. Why? Because the problem wasn’t awareness. The whole city knew what had been going on. The problem was no one could get there.

So Jorge proposed a landmark footbridge which could actually get people in to the area.

While certainly more pricey than an advertising campaign, it would be more practical and lasting. The client agreed with the assessment, and they got a Spanish designer by the name of Santiago Calatrava to put the whole thing together.

The end result was free media coverage of the build and a permanent ‘ambient’ advertisement. Awareness and usefulness in one solution. Brilliant.

The bridge -Puente_de_la_Mujer

If it has been entered in Cannes today it might have won something, back then they would have pointed it to the Builders Merchant and suppliers awards held every year in Ipswich.

So what type of creative came up with that idea? A ‘structural engineer creative’?

Jorge was not versed in bridge construction, any more than creatives of my generation cared about the wiring of a recording studio control desk or digital creatives necessarily need to know how to code.

What Jorge did was apply creative thinking to a problem.

So by all means find out as much about the limitations and potential of different media.

But I wonder, (if you’ll allow me to switch the usual process around) if you are ‘digitally native’, when was the last time you thought about creating a campaign in traditional media? Do you feel comfortable in your chosen discipline or do you allow yourself greater freedom than that, to solve the problem?

Because if you define yourself by the production of your ideas, by a chosen media or discipline, then you’re not a true creative in the advertising sense.

You’re a technician.

And we have enough advertising made by technicians already.


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