Eurythmics' Dave Stewart: Creativity is about connecting unrelated ideas

Dave Stewart: now creative marketing director, TALENT­HOUSE.com
Dave Stewart: now creative marketing director, TALENT­HOUSE.com

Creativity can be unsettling, but binding unrelated elements to forge something new is a pathway to ­genuine excitement, writes TALENT­HOUSE.com's creative marketing director and Eurythmics member, Dave Stewart.

To me, creativity has always been about making a ­connection between two things that normally don’t go ­together, the joining of seemingly unconnected dots.

Forging a pathway in your brain between two unrelated ideas or thoughts entails deviating from the expected and familiar. That’s why the process is sometimes so hard it makes your brain hurt (actually, Mark Simmons and I created some tools in our book The Business Playground that can ­lubricate the process). If it were too easy, the result probably wouldn’t be that good.

When the connection is first made it can feel awkward or unsettling, but that tension gives the idea its magic. It startles us, then makes us think about the world in a slightly new way. It’s a constructive confrontation with the status quo that makes us see the world differently.

Jamming with musicians means experiencing creativity in real time. Four or five people play music together without discussing which notes they will play, and yet they play as if the music always existed.

Living on the moon

When we see how it now looks, the world we had been living on might as well have been the moon. Business needs creativity now more than ever, and technology won’t wait for you to read the music score – it has moved on. The speed of change means a five-year plan is laughable, and a five-second creative window can change your business forever.

Recently, I became creative marketing director for ­TALENTHOUSE.com, a content-marketing platform for brands and creatives. It’s exciting to see how many artists are interested in ­participating in our creative invitations. We have 2.5m members and work with about 80 brands.

The work comes in fast and furious on everything from designing sunglasses for Adidas or Jessie J’s stage clothes sponsored by Coca-Cola, to ­creating animated videos for superstar DJs. Witnessing this onslaught of creativity makes me very confident about the future of art and commerce, which for years has been a complex issue, to say the very least.

Making connections

There are some current marketing ideas I like because of the way they make connections in really interesting and effective ways.

For instance, a TV ad for Carlsberg and its three-year sponsorship of the Barclays Premier League combines football with roller coasters. Not things you would normally associate, which is why it works so nicely. Santo, the Argentinian ad agency that created the ad, saw that the thrill of being on a roller­ coaster ride is like the thrill of Premier League football – what it calls "That Premier Feeling." Dozens of fans, coaches, referees and commentators are all in the cars, literally on an emotional roller coaster.

Nike consistently produces amazing and unpredictable work through its agency Wieden & Kennedy.

Nike consistently produces amazing and unpredictable work through its agency Wieden & Kennedy. A TV ad for Nike Turkey from the agency’s Amsterdam office is a case in point. It turns sport into art. Not just an art form, but a real piece of art you can hang on the wall.

To ­inspire sports fans to do more than watch their favourite sports and get out and participate, Nike created a poster with the printing process driven by the skills of sports stars. The athletes become a human printing press, triggering ­machines that ­photograph, paint and stamp on paper.

Who can forget the movie Carrie, about the teenage girl with supernatural powers? Well, in case any of us have forgotten, the film has been remade and there’s a great piece of marketing to go with it. Again the idea ­involves connecting two things to make something new, in this case a person with supernatural powers in an every­day situation.

Hidden cameras show the shocked reactions of customers in a Manhattan coffee shop when a women goes crazy, using real-looking telekinetic abilities to wreak havoc. A man is lifted off the floor, chairs move by themselves and books fly off the shelves. The action is great, but it’s the reactions of the unsuspecting customers that make the idea work so well.

Yes, creativity can be scary.

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