This year, Creativepool celebrated 10 years of creative excellence with the eighth edition of the Creativepool Annual and handed out over 250 prizes at a lavish Annual Launch Party in the centre of London.
Without the individuals, however, the Annual could never and should never exist. That’s why this year, we’re following up our successful awards night by getting to know our winners a little better and asking them what they feel the next 12 months looks like for both creatives and the industry as a whole.
Let’s begin with Iris Worldwide GCD Ross Taylor, who took home the title of People’s Choice Creative Leader of the Year at the awards earlier this month.
Congratulations on your win Ross! What does your Creative Leader of the Year win mean to you and were you able to attend the launch event?
I started this year (like every year) with the intention to make it extra special in terms of personal achievement within my career. But this year turned out to be particularly epic for personal reasons too. After 4 years my partner and I were finally pregnant via a surrogacy journey here in the UK.
I knew I was going to have to take time out of the business to look after our baby, and like so many, that came with some anxiety about the sacrifices and general FOMO of temporarily not being part of the amazing team at Iris.
So, as soon as we found out that we were having a baby, I wanted to go out with a bang and make the year brilliant and ensure that my child can one day see that her Dad wanted to make her proud and inspire her to work hard and follow her passions too. Being awarded creative leader of the year really has been the perfect end to the best year of my life.
I attended the evening and proudly strutted on stage to take the crown that I deserve and have earned. I am very ambitious, so it always feels good to win and meant a lot to me that so many people across the world, who I admire rallied to get behind in support of that accolade.
If there’s a single pervasive theme this year, it’s been the advancement of AI. How do you feel the technology is impacting the industry right now and what do you think the future holds? Good or bad?
‘AI’ is a really broad term, there’s the kind of AI that has the power to automate war systems which is absolutely terrifying. But there’s the kind like Mid Journey and chat GPT which tread on the toes of art directors and copywriters which I find fascinating - and hopefully more relevant to our industry than warfare.
It’s this AI that has resurrected a kind of joy that I experience when I first went on the internet! A strange frisson of excitable energy inspired by limitless possibility. I always know when something is special because it’s this same feeling followed by obsession, staying up late and exploring, researching, and learning.
I first caught on to Mid Journey via a director. He explained that he had been using it to help create set designs. He wasn’t directly copying the results of his AI prompts but using them to inspire and help explore new avenues of ideas that were already in his head. This is how I think it should be used, a tool to enhance our own imagination and broaden our creative horizons by showing us unexpected lateral outcomes.
I believe we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and technological revolutions lead to cultural revolutions. Think ‘dot com boom’ or even the creation of smartphones, which ultimately put a broadcast video camera in the pocket of the majority of the population, giving birth to ‘creator culture’. What I find interesting is that revolutions never feel like revolutions when you’re actually in them because they play out of years verses weeks.
Dot com, smart phones, social media, didn’t happen in short snaps of time, but our nostalgic biased minds almost remember them like that. Even the name ‘dot com boom’ implies immediacy, booms are quick and fast and high impact, but the reality was somewhat different. One thing I am sure of though, it that those who reject or refuse to learn and upskill will without a doubt become obsolete, and early adopters will reap the rewards.
There are however pitfalls to AI even at image and copy generation levels - The danger comes when automated AI outputs are used as the final work or execution, to me It feels lazy and can give people who aren’t creative a false sense that they are (also dangerous). And don’t even get me started on plagiarism. This is the biggest kink in the system to overcome, to protect original works.
In terms of where AI is heading, I think that it will be quite normal to type in a script or idea for a film or novel and for that to be created within seconds. Over time, the quality and output will be so high that it will be impossible to tell the difference between ‘human-made’ and ‘AI-made’. But this will lead to a premium, a culturally elevated status for original works along with legal legislations which differentiate between the two.
If you think about it AI has the power to write more books in a year than have ever been written, saturating our literary culture - some people might even say polluting our literary culture. This will massively shift the value of authentic works vs AI due to the supply and demand paradigm. This could potentially create an elitist culture around original works too.
Another trend that’s been brewing for just as long, it seems, is the high churn rate among junior talent. This contrasts quite starkly with the churn rate among veterans. How do you think we should be addressing this?
Honestly, I think there should always be high churn of junior talent. It’s the best way to learn and grow. As I was working my way up through advertising, I made a point of switching things up every couple of years, even if I liked an agency.
From pure digital agencies, to ATL to PR, to integrated, all of which have given me a solid foundation to tackle any brief with a holistic view of the best approach for the work. This is the way to learn your leadership style too, take the good and the bad and inform who you want to be from each agency.
Churn becomes an issue when junior talent is leaving the industry. A way that we can address this is by ensuring that we look after our junior talent, nurture them properly, and show them that this is (in my opinion) one of the best jobs in the world. We should never forget that we get paid to have fun, that’s a privilege, and we owe it to others to remind them of that sometimes.
Of course, the cost-of-living crisis has also made an impact in recent months. Do you feel this has affected creatives in any significant way and what do you think the long-term impact might be?
Creatives have always been resourceful and agile creatures, pulling on their cultural learnings and experience, then blending and regurgitating them as new ideas, it’s a wonderful skill. So, when it comes to the cost-of-living crisis, creatives have found new ways to ideate and execute in inventive ways.
I have noticed that ideas have shifted to a more fragmented approach for brands. Lots of little campaigns, executions, and tactical creativity vs big brand platform ideas seem to be the result of brands wanting high impact at lower budgets. It’s also a way for brands to take a trial-and-error approach when it comes to working out the best way forward in terms of media and platforms in an age of austerity.
You sit on the board of Iris’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion board and set up Pride365, a dedicated LGBTQ+ network within the agency. How important is DEI to you personally and do you feel your dedication to the cause might be part of the reason your peers think so highly of you?
Being on the DE&I board is incredibly important to me. When I started this industry, coming from a small northern village, I was so thrilled to be heading to London where I thought I would get to work in an office with other gay people, and more importantly gay leaders who could show me that you can do well in business despite your sexuality. The reality was VERY different.
There is a sad truth, many people who could have been those amazing queer leaders were wiped out in the AIDS epidemic, not to mention the socio-economic impact that historically has negatively affected opportunities for LGBTQ+ people. So, it took me years to find those role models and mentors who are sprinkled sparingly across our industry.
Now that I am a leader, I really hope that I can be someone for EVERYBODY to look up to, but I am proud to represent the LGBTQ+ community, and hope that I can inspire that young version of me. Seeing someone like you in a leadership position is a powerful thing…‘if they can do it, so can I.’
My dedication to LGBTQ+ community is part of my DNA, but I don’t think it’s the only reason people think so highly of me. Part of the reconciliation process of realising that you aren’t like everyone else is about self-acceptance, once you accept yourself you become an authentic person, and authenticity is magnetic.
That’s why people think highly of me because I know who I am and that is something to aspire to. That gives me the freedom and confidence to speak freely and share my opinions for the way forward. That, and I invest in people and the work with unrelenting determination and commitment.
Finally, what trends do you see making waves over the next 12 months (besides AI)?
PR capabilities within agencies are going to be the next big thing. We can all create great ideas, but without a spin or an angle to help that idea catch fire in earned and paid media, we are just flinging grains of sand at black holes.
Watching the Barbie campaign unfold was a stark reminder that people really just want to be entertained, in multiple ways. And entertained they were. From Barbie-themed makeover shows, to strange AI-generated giant Barbie unboxings to the release of ‘Weird Barbie’ the world ATE IT UP!
This Is really the direction that brands with have to explore, multi-faceted strategically planned drops in multiple channels across a calculated timeline to reach peak interest in lateral and unexpected ways.
At Iris, we have never underestimated the power of PR fusing with social to create highly targeted and powerful campaigns so this is a very natural evolution for us which keeps me hungry.