Experiencing Creative Week NYC and what you may have missed

“Digital Darwinism is the evolution of consumer behaviorism when society and technology evolve faster than your ability to adapt.”
For New York City it was an abnormally rainy day, and the rhythm of the raindrops against my window in tandem with the soft beats of my alarm clock echoed throughout my dreams as I, half awake and half asleep, rubbed my blurry eyes and peered at the clock: 6:30 am. I can’t recall the last time I saw that hour.

It was Wednesday, May 9th, and time to get up for Creative Week NYC. The breakfast panel started at 8:30 am, earlier then when I usually stroll into work, but late enough for me to push the snooze button just one more time.

After braving the rain, grey skies, and endless pools of tiny oceans, I finally made my way to the venue, a studio art space in DUMBO, only marked by the muted green letters that read, “The Galapagos Art Space.” Inside it was relatively dark and had the standard bagels, muffins, and coffee spread for breakfast. I grabbed my usual coffee with skim milk and two Equals, some obligatory fruit from the fruit platter, and two mini blueberry muffins.

Everything in tow, I nestled into my seat, which was interesting, as the layout was a stage in the front with chairs, mics, and a projector screen, and then pockets of seats throughout the middle and water separating the clusters of seating. There was seating upstairs as well. It was a very laid-back space with young professionals, DIY designers, and other creative industry folk trickling in one by one, very much as I had imagined the raindrops did on my windowsill just a few hours prior.

At nine o’clock on the dot, a gentleman in dreadlocks and a light gray business suit introduces the breakfast panel. It’s odd how dressed up he is against the look-and-feel of not only the attendees but also the panelists themselves. It was more of a come as you are feel than anything else. Nonetheless, I feel right at home and I have out my notepad and pen, eager to jot down the kernels of wisdom that are sure to flow, but I glance over to the woman next to me with her laptop, iPhone, and other gizmos ready to go. Clearly she is prepared to do live blogging from the event. I sheepishly glance back down at my notepad—it was kind of poetic, actually, with the question of the hour being analog (convention) vs. digital (the now, the future). I bravely picked up my pen and figured there must be a place for both.

Highlights from the breakfast series “Creativity out of Geography:”
  • Locations that are economically attractive, cheaper rent and spaces, breed the most creativity—haven for the “starving artist;” think: Harlem and African-American literature and art, Broadway in the ‘40s, DUMBO today, Chelsea in the ‘60s, the Beat Generation, etc. I automatically thought of Walter Landor and the Klamath. Make your offices on a boat so you don’t have to pay taxes—creativity out of geography at its best, and now the Klamath is an iconic symbol for our company, Landor.
  • The industry is shifting so that people can do it all, and innovate and produce quickly with multiple ideas. The era of just knowing one skill set or discipline is coming to an end.
  • Real time media and web is a huge idea—but you need the space to create, whether it’s tangible or virtual.
  • One of the creators of Instaprint explained that the idea came from chatter around the watercooler, and the first prototype was made from crates that they picked up from the West Elm down the street, and then they took the idea on the road to SXSW.
  • It’s all about problem solving and using your environment to solve problems.
  • There’s no such this as a boring project—it’s your job as a creative to make it cool.
Those guys were pretty gnarly, I thought to myself as I finished scribbling down their final insights. “Do you want milk?” a nice-looking woman asked me with a faint smile. I couldn’t help but smile back, unsure exactly why she was asking me this, and then I obliged with a slight nod, “yes.” She handed me a mini milk carton and then a personal packet of Oreo cookies. My smile quickly broadened in anticipation of twisting, licking, and dunking the classic cookie. A method of eating the cookie shared by 50 percent of its consumers, the other 50 percent are biters, I would learn from the proceeding panel discussion on the brand strength of the Oreo cookie as it celebrated it 100th anniversary.

Highlights from “100 Years of the Oreo Cookie:”
  • Their brand message is: Save childhood. That we need to slow down and remember childhood innocence, which is where the Oreo cookie comes into play.
  • In celebration of its 100th birthday, Oreo kicked off a new ad campaign that used various takes on the Oreo cookie with a reference to pop culture (ex: An Oreo bitten in such a way that it looks like the fin of shark swimming in a sea of milk in homage to the movie Jaws). They looked internally for design inspiration and received over 700 executions of using the Oreo cookie to depict top moments in pop culture.
  • Oreo’s project reminded me of our Landor “What the L?” campaign, where we asked everyone in our network to participate in creating various Ls.
  • The pop culture cookies became Oreo’s first global campaign where their messaging was consistent in every country that they are in.
  • They created a “Moments Gallery” where consumers can share stories of their moments eating Oreo cookies, with the most popular stories being moms describing when their child first experiences eating an Oreo cookie.
  • Key message: at every touchpoint that the consumer experiences an Oreo cookie it reminds him/her of a simpler time.
  • Everything in moderation was their answer to a question surrounding the trend toward healthier eating habits, especially for American children.
After the Oreo cookies snack and digesting their messaging strategy and platform, it was time for a proper lunch. They didn’t serve lunch the conference, so I took the opportunity to explore the area, which was this hybrid between industrial and small shops. The concrete was still wet from the morning showers and the looming clouds playfully threatened to rain with tiny sprinkles here and there, falling on your shoulders and nose. I ate lunch sitting on a concrete slab, sort of like the ones in Union Square, and read an article in New York magazine, which was part of the conference’s goodie bag, which also included the latest editions of Fast Company, AdWeek, and some other pamphlets.
I wandered over to the art installation, “Throttle Up,” which was being sponsored by GE Lighting. I put my name down with the young man carrying the sign-in sheet, which was an iPad, and they would text me when it was my turn to experience the installation. I sat down on the white leather couches and allowed my fingers to play within the cracks of the delicate fabric until I felt a slight buzz. It was my turn. I pulled myself up from the couch and entered another room. There an instructional video on how to interact with the installation and two women were escorting me through my experience. Stand on the two footprints, wait until the GE logo lights up, and then put your hands up and match them to the glowing lights so the machine can scan your body. Then you can control the virtual objects—an engine and its various parts.

“Ah, just like Minority Report,” I said to the women, I thought I was so clever. “Yup,” the only one who had spoken retorted. Clearly she heard that exact same sentence a hundred times before. With that I stepped into the next room, stood on the footprints and the show began. I was able to virtually create a GE engine, spin it around, and then off it went into space with an unexpected gust of wind from its virtual propellers. Ta-da. I collected my things, bid farewell to my guides, and exited from the rear.

I moseyed my way back to the conference just in time for the next panel discussion. I looked up and saw an older gentleman with a huge grin on his face, he looked like an old professor I had at Georgetown and I was instantly enamored with him. Turns out my hunch was right, he’s a professor at NYU Stern and would be moderating the conversation on whether creativity is innate or if can be taught/trained. I sat back, notebook out, and felt a wave of nostalgia for the classroom.
Highlights from “Are Creatives Born or Can They Be Taught and Trained?:”
  • Creativity is looking at things differently and seeing things that others don’t see: it’s about activating a new way of seeing things.
  • You must allow creativity to happen but you must have control/boundaries in order ensure that money is made.
  • Fear is the biggest inhibitor to creativity: you must learn to be not afraid.
  • Biomimicry: We can learn to be innovate by studying nature.
  • Allow someone the permission to be creative, give them ownership and pride in what they are doing—that’s how you tap into creativity.
  • The process of cultivating creativity is about building relationships, motivating people.
  • Create a connection and you will create movement.
  • Challenge convention in order to get a new place.
Hmm, I just learned how to be creative from a creative. Although my personal stance is that it is innate, an intrinsic disposition toward the creative, and then from there you cultivate that inner need to create. Of course, others who lack this intrinsic disposition can be taught the necessary skill set to think creativity and produce creative content, but you know an intrinsic creative gift when you see it. Now that I’m off my soapbox, I went over to the refreshment section and refilled on coffee. As I settled back into my seat, I flipped through the agenda, “Cracking the Ad Code” was up next.
Highlights from “Cracking the Ad Code: A Systematic Look at What Creates Endearingly Creative Ads:”
  • Four ideas:
    o Critique and constraint stimulate creativity
    o Individuals are more creative than groups
    o Financial award may be linked to hindering creativity
    o Instructing people to be creative breeds creativity
  • Must be appropriate, useful, and actionable
  • Factors for the medium of ads:
    o Unification
    o Activation
    o Metaphor
    o Subtraction
  • Factors for the message of ads:
    o Extreme consequence
    o Extreme effort
    o Absurd alternative
    o Inversion
  • Artistic freedom: The only freedom you have is choosing you own constraints.
  • You are rewarded for your expertise—you must sell the product.
  • Never give your best idea in the first meeting.
  • You must establish a common language in order to effectively create within groups.
I barely touched my coffee during that discussion, as it got very lively. I took a quick swig and noticed a new crop of attendees pop up. All black, layered ensemble, with black tights—check. Black leather bag, with or without fringe. Check. Simultaneously holding a Blackberry, iPhone, and Starbucks, all in one hand. Check. The fashionistas had arrived. And just in time for the panel discussion around fashion within the digital space.

The quote, “Digital Darwinism is the evolution of consumer behaviorism when society and technology evolve faster than your ability to adapt,” from Social Media Today flashed on the screen and the girlish grin crawled back to my face. This was going to be good.
Highlights from “Fashion x Commerce x Content:”
  • The consumer is constantly waiting for new content.
  • Everything you try will not always work but you must be willing to take the risk.
  • Online is not a dilution of a luxury brand—it is another way to tell its story
  • The concept of ROI is antiquated within the digital space.
  • Keys to success: know your brand, know your consumer, stay curious and interested.
  • Replicating glamour, texture, and emotion digitally is the end goal.
  • Digital is accessibility to the masses.
  • It is your job to communicate a story that people can relate to and aspire toward— creating an awareness and engaging people.
  • Create content that can tell your story because in the digital space there isn’t always a vocabulary, word, or image to convey your message.
  • You are creating tribes—members and ambassadors of your brand, with a voice that you can respond to.
  • Advertising is now content and storytelling—it must be compelling.
  • Audiences digest information so quickly you must be able to speak their language.
There were some additional panel discussions but I spent some of that time connecting with the other attendees. One who was a mobile app developer and I tracked down one of my favorite moderators from the day and just listened to him talk about his upcoming speaking gigs and the true communal atmosphere that Creative Week NYC breeds. Once the conference came to a close and I walked outside, the sun now shining and peaking through the clouds. And I thought to myself, what a beautiful day this has become.