The debate about what ‘new’ means in creative terms is an interesting one.
Is it just the latest technology?
If you can spot it and use it first, is that ‘new’?
Or is it looking at different cultures, different historical periods, and finding something no one else has found?
Is that ‘new’.
Or is it finding new and unexpected combinations of things that no one has seen before?
Is that ‘new’?
Of course, the answer is ‘Yes’.
The fact is they’re all new.
But to be ‘new’ in the creative sense they need an important extra element.
They need to be clever.
Otherwise the finance department could do it.
“Buy the latest piece of technology. Okay enter it in D&AD. Good now get the award mounted.”
Dull, lazy thinking.
The opposite of creative, in fact.
The main thing ‘new’ means in creative terms, is surprising, original, unexpected, and mainly clever.
I always like the definition, ‘radical common-sense’.
Radical in the dictionary sense of ‘going to the root of things’.
Common-sense as in, something that seems really obvious once we’ve seen it, and we can’t believe no one thought of before.
We thought it was so important that we used to have a weekly ‘Radical Common-sense’ session at the agency.
To get everyone’s mind working in a more creative way, we used to get together every Friday afternoon.
And, because creativity doesn’t just belong in one department, the whole agency would be there.
At 4.30 we’d all go into the board room for drinks and snacks.
Then, whoever had been nominated the week before, would have to present an example of ‘radical common-sense’.
It didn’t have to have anything to do with advertising.
The idea was to get the creative juices flowing, to loosen up people’s minds.
They would argue about whether something fulfilled the criteria ‘radical common-sense’ and, in doing so, would be understanding and developing the concept.
At the same time becoming much aware about examples of it in the world around them, for when they had to present.
Here are some of the examples I remember.
‘The Iron Match’ was something brought back from China.
The Chinese liked the idea of a refillable cigarette lighter, because it was less wasteful than matches.
But it had too many working parts to go wrong.
So they had a metal box the size of a Zippo lighter, filled with cotton wool and petrol.
Into this fitted a metal tube filled with a wick.
When you wanted a light you took out the metal tube, struck it on the side of the box, and it lit up like a match.
When you finished using it, you blew it out and replaced it.
The economy of a lighter with the simplicity of a match.
Flash-Drive Mix Tapes was another great idea.
People used to enjoy making compilation cassettes of music.
Either for themselves, in the car maybe, or for other people (like the movie High Fidelity).
But since computers, no one does it.
So this was an old fashioned tape-cassette, with a small 64MB memory stick inserted into it.
You use the memory-stick to make a compilation tape.
And the tape cassette was just for packaging. Witty idea.
Another great idea was ‘Shazam’.
When you were out anywhere that music was playing, and you heard a track you liked the sound of.
You dialed 123 2580 on your mobile (that’s the letter T on your keypad).
Then you held it up to the source of the music.
1 minute later it would text you back the name of the song and the artist.
And offer to sell it to you.
Then there was the traditional Japanese soda-pop bottle.
A glass marble was wedged in the neck so liquid couldn’t escape.
You pressed the marble inside when you wanted to drink.
Then you shook the bottle and the expanding gas held the marble back in place again.
A beautiful one piece recycleable unit.
There was a Wi Fi T shirt that had a signal display on the front.
The bars would light up more as the signal got stronger (much like the bars on top of your computer screen).
Simple, fun.
Someone brought in a sheet of Royal Mail Stamps.
The main picture was a vegetable or fruit.
But with it you got a selection of stick-on eyes noses and mouths, so you could make your own face.
Which child wouldn’t want that?
There was also an LED belt buckle from Camden Town.
You could programme in your own message that would scroll across like the display at Times Square.
All of these and many more were brilliant, simple ideas.
Even if they weren’t chronologically ‘new’.
They were new, and fresh, end exciting, and original, and unexpected in creative terms.
And that’s our job.