Can creativity change the world?

Some of you may be aware that today is Peace Day, and marking the occasion last night was D&AD’s Shapr’ner event on  ‘how creativity makes people give a shit’.

D&AD has partnered with charity Peace One Day, which calls for global ceasefire and non-violence. Marking D&AD’s 50th birthday next year, it is introducing a White Pencil award to recognise the power of creative communications to effect change for good.

DandAD White Pencil
D&AD White Pencil

Chaired by Someone’s Simon Manchipp, the panel consisted of Wunderman’s David Harris, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Richard Huntington, Rasmus Bech Hansen, strategic director of Venturethree and Wallpaper magazine’s art director, Meirion Pritchard.

Simon Manchipp
Simon Manchipp

Opening speaker Huntington points to the ‘unreasonable power of creativity’ – and asserts that the ‘unreasonable power of creativity’ can, often than not – be more powerful than governance is influencing people’s actions for good.

He takes the 1970 Saatchi & Saatchi pregnant man advert for the Health Education Council as an example of how, rather than straight imagery or persuasive text, an idea or concept can hold enormous sway.  The jury is out on whether the campaign did indeed make men think more carefully about sex, but the ad’s resonance is doubtless.

One of Huntington’s main gripes is – understandably – with the coalition government’s decision to slash its ‘non essential’ annual marketing and advertising spend, and to scrap the Centre Office of Information, pointing to the significant effect government ad campaigns such as Dig for Victory, have had on our collective social consciousness.

He also highlights the need of advertising to target emotion rather than reason to incite real change in thoughts and actions: inspiration, he says, is 90 per cent; coercion 10 per cent.

Harris starts off his five minutes blinding us with neuroscience (as he terms it, our ‘neural wifi’) ,  and how our ability to ‘emotional intelligence’ and ability to empathise with people have been stifled by society, reducing this to a (distinctly unemotional) equation – social intelligence + creativity = behavioural change.

Next up is the razor-cheekboned Bech Hansen  who highlights the responsibility of  creative businesses as brand guardians, to assume a degree of responsibility to push brands to do good things. Rather than simply creating great branding for charities, he says, agencies can change the world by changing the companies they work for.

Our final speaker is Pritchard, whose slot we especially enjoy due to its Kraftwerk soundtrack, some awesome animations and lots of pretty pictures.

Next, Manchipp asks the floor: is creativity more important than governance? Despite his jovial efforts to catalyse debate and sparring, it seems everyone is in agreement that yes, it is. However, collectively the panel remains somewhat at a loss as to how to actively effect change, rather than simply get the message across to people.

Bech Hansen reiterates the well-worn Ghandi quote -‘ be the change you want to see in the world’. Huntington, however, points out that creative industries are often slow to take self-initiated actions, often feeling the need to hinge their ideas and creative concepts on a brand or charity.

So we have to wonder – will they really be that change? How much power does creativity wield?

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  • Lora Starling November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Creativity is vital in any change, first we need to visualise a future then create it. Our creative brain is unbounded by logic and has access to a massive field of information. Logical processes depend on a measurable past. And Advertising thrives on emotion! Logic is sidelined when our emotions, fear, love etc are targetted.

  • Tim Newton November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If ‘the jury is out’ on whether the ‘pregnant man’ ad made men think more carefully about sex then it was not successful was it? I think that makes a rather weak argument for the ‘unreasonable power of creativity’. As arresting an image as it was – if it didn’t achieve its objective then it has failed – no? Take Benetton’s Testino campaigns from the 80s – creative, visually arresting – and I believe part of a growth in sales?

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