Then & Now: Past Young Lions Competition Champions Discuss Creativity

It’s that time of the year again when creative minds gather to debate, learn and be inspired. This year’s Cannes Lions Festival is just around the corner, and we’re very excited to once again be sponsoring the Young Lions Competition.  With this year’s battle for creative supremacy still up in the air, we wanted to take a minute and reflect on last year’s competition winners.

As you may recall, it was the Canadian creative duo, Alex Newman and Patrice Pollack, who faced an intense 24-hour challenge in the ‘Cyber’ competition category and brought home the Gold. We caught up with the reigning champions to capture their very own “Why I Create” story and asked them for their thoughts on how the creative process has evolved and the role data plays – a hot topic that will be discussed at this year’s festival, including our panel, “Adobe: Is Data Killing Creativity?” Check out the full Q&A below and be sure to follow our social channels – Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube – closely for live updates from Cannes beginning June 17.

Adobe: Have you always been compelled to create? Was the instinct there from a young age of did this happen later in life?

Alex Newman: I’ve always been a person driven by imagination and creation. As a child, I’d spend the majority of my days in my bedroom with a floor covered in Lego pieces – I’d lose myself in my imagination for hours. As an undergraduate with a passion for drawing, I took up animation at Seneca College in Toronto. As I got older, my desire to create didn’t wane. Being admitted to the Ontario College of Art and Design in 2007, I studied advertising and supplemented my critical thinking courses with a heavy focus on motion graphics, interactivity and art.

Patrice Pollack: I’ve always been compelled to create. When I was little, I never wanted to play with dolls. All I wanted was Plasticine, construction paper and crayons.

What are your thoughts about how the creative process has changed in the past 50 years? What do you think are the differences between then (such as the 1960’s “Mad Men” style) and now?

Alex: I’m very new to the industry of advertising, but as a millennial I have an unusual perspective on the last 50 years of advertising. Mainly because, I’m part of this elusive target demographic that began shaking up the industry a decade ago. I find that more recently ad agencies have had to become very nimble, very quickly to respond to a fluid audience. With the emergence of technology and social media, there has been a paradigm shift in culture of how people absorb information. It’s no longer a passive experience as it was during the “Mad Men” era. For larger firms it’s been a particularly difficult transition. Like the Titanic heading for an iceberg, large agencies don’t turn on a dime. Shedding this 50 year old structure of mass advertising and embracing the new structure of mass conversation is essential for companies to reach the newly empowered consumer. Being a new employee at JWT, I see this agency in the process of metamorphosis, and a great opportunity to ride a wave of innovation. Personally, this is the most exciting time to be in advertising in the last 50 years.

Patrice: I think the fundamentals have stayed the same, but technology and the new media we have to play with have dramatically impacted the creative process. The sheer amount of advertising that is vying for our attention has also quadrupled, so agencies have had to think of new ways to get noticed – and that goes far beyond traditional advertising.

What are your thoughts on how creativity and marketing data have to work together? Page views, clicks and other metrics are a big part of the creative world – not just “why” but “how” ads are created today. Do “Mad Men” need to become more like “Math Men?”

Alex: The measurement of creativity is almost an oxymoron, yet in a business that relies on results, metrics are a crucial part of success. I find metrics in moderation are extremely helpful in gathering creative insights, but there does come a time when metrics can hinder the ability to think creatively. If the left side of the brain (linear thinking) has too much of a strangle hold on the right side (creative thinking), there is less room to ‘play’ with a thought.