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Why we need Creative Technologists

Posted on July 10, 2012 in Technology

Traditional advertising is dead. There, I said it.

Whether you agree with that statement or not, it’s hard to deny the recent shift being made by traditional agencies towards this mythical beast known as “Digital”. Over the past couple of years I’ve witnessed a number of agencies attempt to make this shift. Some have been successful, some have not.

The problem I find, is that traditional agencies don’t tend to have the people/skills in place in order to pull off the digital campaigns they’re aiming for. In truth, the concept of “Digital” is Alien to most; generally leading to confusion and misconceptions about the possibilities and use-cases for certain technologies.

Enter the Creative Technologist. But first, what the f**k is a “Creative Technologist”?

The role of a Creative Technologist is one that has created much confusion in the industry as of late. I’d attribute it to the fact the role isn’t yet prevalent here in the UK. This has led to many different interpretations of what the role is and what it entails.

Allow me to give my take: To me, a Creative Technologist is the technical equivalent to an Art Director. An Art Director doesn’t just design, they look at a brief/concept from a much broader perspective, allowing them to make informed decisions on how a story should be told. Similarly, a Creative Technologist takes a concept and based on their experience with various technologies, makes decisions on which technology is best used and how it should be used effectively.

Why are Creative Technologists important? Let’s go back to my original statement for a second. Traditional agencies are stuck – creative teams aren’t aware of technical possibilities/contraints, technical teams don’t care much for the creative process. A Creative Technologist helps to bridge this gap. Being possessed with a creative mind and experienced in technology, they should be able to work between both teams helping determine feasibility of ideas and the best tools for the job.

Agencies in the US already actively employ Creative Technologists in order to solve this problem, but (outside of London) the role of a Creative Technologist is virtually non-existant here in the UK. Agencies over here should be looking to employ individuals skiled in both disciplines in order to push forwards and help realise their more digitally-focussed campaigns.

It’s not all sunshines and rainbows however. There is still some doubt as to the necessity of the role, as can be seen in a blog post by Igor Clark (of W+K) called “Why We’re Not Hiring Creative Technologists“. Igor does raise some great points, although I feel Igor’s view of a Creative Technologist doesn’t describe the role of a Technologist in its truest sense. I won’t go into too much detail, as Sermad Buni (of BBDO) has written a great response “Why We’re Hiring Creative Technologists“. Both articles are well worth a read and give more insights into the role and various thoughts/opinions on the matter.

That’s it from me. If you have anything to add, drop me a line in the comments.

8 Responses to “Why we need Creative Technologists”

  1. iamkeir says:

    Very nice description – much less of a ‘buzzword’ to me now, can actually see true value in that role. I’d say it is something a lot of us web folk already do without realising it.

  2. Andrea says:

    Dude. I totally agree with you that some agencies don’t have the people or skills. And if they do, they have too many layers of approval between an idea and an actual ‘yes’.

    I can’t speak for agency feuds and the likes but I do remember seeing some random job advert at one point describing a creative technologist merely as someone ‘aware of’ technologies and how to use them creatively. So I get why W+K would say they don’t want that kind of role, but at the same time we seem to have a communication breakdown when it comes to the title.

    I think we need a venn diagram of sorts…art director, coder and even project manager to some extent. It’s some sort of holy trinity that the role we all have in mind probably should have.

  3. Andy says:

    Great stuff, couldn’t agree more.

    Talking of Venn diagrams I made a short presentation a while ago on this very subject – updated (including a link to this post) & uploaded it today.

    It’s still a WIP so any feedback would be great but it does hopefully help explain the role to those who still don’t get it.

    http://www.slideshare.net/andrewrobertnewman/creative-tech-publics

  4. craftedpixelz says:

    @Andy: Your slideshow sums it up really well. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Andrea says:

    Ah Andy, I love the idea of being half hustler, half hipster. Wonderful.

  6. Andy says:

    @andrea – i can’t credit for that one i’m afraid, it came from Rei Inamoto, CCO.

    I totally agree with him though :)

  7. Evan Jacobs says:

    I agree, 100%. I’ve been branding myself in this fashion for a while, though under a slightly different name of “Marketing Technologist”.

    The skill set is the same though, regardless of the name.

  8. Siminki says:

    Interesting – not heard of this role before although I’m guessing my Masters course in Creative Technology in 1999 qualifies me a little :) Having worked across design, front end dev and UX in the past I sometimes struggle to define what my exact role is with so many specialist positions being created. Whats the real difference between this and a UX designer would you say?

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