Craig Davis, global chief creative officer, JWT Worldwide, is an optimist. Even as media and advertising agencies across the world debate whether conventional media (print and television) will be able to survive the onslaught of new media, he says that not only will the new and old coexist, but print will continue to thrive because of its “huge physiological advantage”. He, however, maintains that in the future, the emphasis will be more on finding new ways of brand communication, rather than passive advertising.
Davis has been commended for the creative transformation at JWT in the three years since he joined the agency, which is one of the leading creative shops in the world and belongs to Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP. He has also been named among the world’s Top 100 creative talents by Advertising Age.
Davis was in India recently to announce the inclusion of Josy Paul and Agnello Dias, JWT India’s top creative executives, in the JWT Worldwide Creative Council. In an interview with Mint, he says he loves India’s artistic sensitivity and cultural heritage. Edited excerpts:
What is the biggest challenge for creativity in today’s multimedia environment?
We have become comfortable with the idea that someone will aggregate the audience for us and we will buy that audience from them in ad units. That model needs to be challenged. We have to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what people are interested in.
I believe brands can be highly entertaining, informative and involving. Brands need big, strong and insightful ideas to do that. Those ideas transcend any one media channel and help to build a coherent story for the brand.
Creating ideas of that calibre, bringing them alive at all the right times and in all the right places is our biggest challenge.
What is more important—a winning creative or a good media strategy? Put differently, what is more important, the idea or the medium?
They are both vital. You cannot separate content and context without compromising the outcome. On the whole, I don’t believe that planning, creative folks and media thinkers are working together closely enough.
Which is a good commercial—the one that gets talked about for its excellent creative idea and execution, or the one that leads to some strategic benefits?
Make no mistake, we are here to get results. JWT has sold more things to more people in more parts of the world than any other network. But creativity and effectiveness are not strangers, they are happy bedmates.
My view is that there is cause and effect—the right kind of creativity leads directly to effectiveness in market. Remember that creativity is not confined to commercials. It should be in the planning, in the idea itself, in the way media are deployed and in the packaging and point of sale. And, increasingly, it needs to be aimed at getting people involved with the brand—consider our recent work for Nike and Sunsilk’s Gang of Girls.
What’s your take on the whole confusion around new media? Will Internet, mobile phones and other digital media push conventional media, such as print, to the brink?
We seem to have a voracious and insatiable appetite for all kinds of media. It’s not a case of either/or. I think the new and the conventional media will continue to coexist and the current lines between them will get blurred. For example, Joost TV is a hybrid of TV and the Net, and content from the blogosphere is finding its way back into mainstream print.
The ability to control content and contribute (posting, blogging, rating, sharing...) via the Internet is raising everyone’s expectations of all media. Increasingly, people expect to be able to choose and play with content in all forms.
And while everyone is talking about the democratization of media, my view is that it’s more of a meritocracy.
The better, more relevant and more interesting the content, the better any one medium will perform—the market will decide.
But I wouldn’t be too worried about print disappearing. The print medium has a huge physiological advantage—people can only scan about 1,500 words per minute on a PC; in print it is 5,000-10,000.
How do you rate creativity in the Indian ad industry?
I love the talent and the energy in this market. There is a great artistic sensitivity in India and rich creative heritage. Couple that with ambition and the desire to succeed and you have a very powerful cocktail. I’ve seen world-class work created in India and I expect to see much more of it going forward. Confidence and courage are growing, and it’s an exciting time to be in this business in India.