JWT CCO Benjamin: Technology isn’t sapping creativity

With IAB having extended the deadline for the 2014 IAB MIXX Awards, a celebration of the year’s best interactive marketing, we spoke with Jeff Benjamin, JWT Chief Creative Officer and this year’s Jury Chair to find out what kind of work he thinks is moving the industry forward, who is innovating fastest and why he thinks technology isn’t the end of good work. Have a look at the interview below, then enter by Friday, July 18.

What are some of the more innovative, boundary-pushing things that are being done in advertising right now?

Our industry is at a special moment right now where our culture has caught up to technology. What that means for creativity is that all these amazing, magical, nutty, technological opportunities that have been out there are getting real, big, creative ideas. We’re using all different digital opportunities to tell stories in modern ways. I don’t think we’ve always been able to say that. So I do think there is an unbelievable amount of invention in advertising – but maybe the greatest leap we’ve made is in the quality of the insights, writing, and ideas that we are bringing.

What ad tactics/techniques have you seen this year that you really liked?

Two themes that have defined some of the best work I’ve seen this year were brands realizing that they can have great ideas that do great things in this world. Big, purpose-driven ideas that help define the souls of brands, sell products – and do good. A second theme was brands creating stories in the branded entertainment and content space – but revealing those stories in very unexpected and modern ways. Moving beyond online films and into activations, mobile, social, and invention.

Why are the IAB MIXX Awards important? What do they demonstrate to the industry?

These days it has become so fashionable to say that the industry is losing creativity. That we’re less courageous with our ideas. That we’ve become focused on technology, and not ideas and stories. The IAB MIXX Awards year after year shows us something else: that creativity is alive and well. That there are still brave brands out there doing work that stops us, makes us feel things. Pulls us off the sidelines and gets us participating with the brands and ideas.

What effect do you hope these awards have on the industry at large?

The MIXX Awards bring a unique perspective to the industry. It’s not just a creative’s perspective. You have a jury made up of brand managers, publishers, media planners, technologists, and creatives – and they’re all collaborating, debating, and discovering the best work in the world. Sometimes we can convince ourselves that only creatives have the ability to appreciate and fight for great ideas. I hope the world looks at the work we find and realizes that isn’t true. And that the greatest ideas are the result of amazing partnerships, all these disciplines coming together to make something great.

Who is innovating faster: publishers or agencies?

It depends on who you ask. I think publishers probably think they are innovating faster, and agencies think they’re the ones in front. The reality is that many times they’re both innovating at amazing speeds but in different directions. And that is super frustrating for both. The agency wishes the publisher would let them do things the site can’t do and the publisher is losing their mind because they have this awesome thing that the agencies won’t use right. There really is not enough collaboration. But I think as an industry we’re realizing that and finding ways for bringing the right people together to push what we do even further.

What qualities distinguish an award winner from the rest of the pack?

For me the best ideas are ideas that matter. Certainly it’s going to have a great creative idea, is executed in a magical way, pushes the industry forward, tells an amazing story, and is phenomenally effective. But at the end of the day we have to celebrate the ideas that really found their way into culture and mattered.

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