Who are you & what do you do?
I'm Francois, a brand strategist with a digital background (and, I hope, a creative mind). I'm from France, but I've been living for 8 years in the US. I work as a global brand strategy director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco (but I miss New York everyday).
What is creativity to you?
I think the biggest misconception regarding creativity is that it is a gift, something that only a few people have. That's not true. I think we're all creative, but some people just don't use this great asset, because of fear I guess, or maybe because they are too conservative: they don't allow themselves to play with and recombine their thoughts. I mean, everyone has imagination - and that's really the ground base you can build your creativity on. The only difference is that some people learn to train, liberate and apply their imagination, and some people don't - they keep it locked inside their head. That said, not all creative people are created equal: the most creative people in the world express their creativity in new, outstanding, brilliant ways. They have the ability connect the dots to surprise us. My belief is that in an agency, everybody, from the strategist to the receptionists, has to be creative - at least, that's how the best agencies work.
What is innovation to you?
I think innovation is the new frontier in advertising. We're shifting from just being creative to being innovative - it's the new holy grail. In our industry, the goal was to be the most creative and the most clever. Today it's not enough. Today, we want to be the most innovative and ingenious, and we want to re-invent, push the boundaries of what advertising is. By innovation, I mean "applied creativity" with a desire to make things and strive to actually improve people's lives beyond just crafting cute, funny messages. We must help brands make people's lives more meaningful. Innovation is about combining things differently, ingeniously - actually doing things. It's more exciting than old-school creativity, because it's creativity plus something else. It makes us do real progress. While old-school creativity is fun for a moment, new-school innovation has a longer lasting effect.
You say that competition is fierce today in the advertising industry - what do you think this means for young talent entering the industry?
I think there are two sides to this question. For students who are looking for a job, it's hard to get attention from CDs. You need to find new ways, develop your portfolio. The best portfolios are usually very diverse portfolios, that show agility across media, genres, clients, and more. They must show how good you are, but also the width and depth of your skills. The second thing is: how do we help brands communicate and get people's attention, when the competition for attention is more intense. The key here is what some bright thinkers call "return on attention". The principle is simple: since you won't have a lot of attention from consumers, how do you maximize the reward they get in the short attention window they give you. And also, how do you minimize their effort and maximize the rewarding aspect of the experience? I think that's the biggest challenge right now, together with the adoption of all the new platforms out there. I call that other challenge "invent for the context". This is basically a way to say that
ingenuity doesn't just apply in an absolute world. It must be considered "in context", keeping in mind the rules and behaviors native to the specific platform the idea will live in: you can't engage on Facebook like you do on a microsite, or on Twitter, or on Tumblr. It's going to create a new level of complexity to bring our ideas to life. Finally, we need to bring more value and convenience in the experiences: we can't afford to spam people with long loading time, or 3 minute "flashturbation" intro on microsite (with no "skip the intro" button of course). It might be impressive to us, but it's not what people are looking for.
What are the key considerations when building brands for the future?
They are couple of them: first, it will help you focus if your brand has a clear purpose in the world. Once you have that, it's about making an impact, evoking a feeling, in a short period of time - when you get people's attention.
The other thing you need is an "editorial angle" - which is a way to create coherence versus consistency (since consistency is impossible to achieve on so many diverse social platforms). Once you have an editorial angle for your brand, you don't need to script everything. You can adapt to Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr, be reactive and contextual, while never loosing your coherence. So agencies should help brands stop being obsessed with consistency, and start inventing for the context. That means we all need to reinvent the old advertising process - both on the agency and the client sides.
Francois Grouiller recently spoke about "Celebrating the Hacking Spirit" for Hyper Island's Students in Stockholm.