Damon Stapleton: Creativity. Now and then can both be true.


A blog by Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer, The Monkeys New Zealand.


“Fuck the past. This was the present.” – Margie Stiefvater

I was at SxSW in Sydney recently. I saw some great talks and learnt heaps. But, there was a re-occurring conversation. I cannot tell you how many times I ended up speaking about A.I. and what is going to happen. How will advertising change? Will I have a job? I am sure you have had those conversations.

So, since it is almost Xmas (Unfuckingbelievable) I thought I would attempt to offer a bit of hope. What I am about to say is pretty obvious. But it might help. Oh well, better out than in.

At the moment there is a narrative out there that technology will replace creativity. A lot of this is driven by the fear that technology will be used to replace a lot of jobs. This is a real and understandable fear.

However, what this narrative has done has created this idea that technology and creativity are seperate things. That technology will replace creativity. That these two things are in a battle.

There is another way to look at this. And I can’t really think of a better example than the new song from The Beatles called Now and Then. Sir Peter Jackson had created a technology during his brilliant Beatles documentary that let you seperate all the layers of a song using machine learning. Technology.

45 years ago, John Lennon had made a beautiful demo tape of a song. Creativity. However, the quality wasn’t great and his vocals were hard to hear. This tape sat in a bottom drawer and was never going to be used. And who doesn’t have a bottom drawer idea that couldn’t be done?

This new technology let the remaining Beatles finish the creativity of the song. Creativity and technology came together to create something neither could have done on its own.

The simple thought of technology and creativity being partners is everywhere. Musicians and sound engineers. A director and a director of photography. Special effects and live action. I could go on. What is strange is we like to put these into disciplines into seperate boxes. Which of course is the opposite of what creatives should do. We should always stay open to new stuff. That is almost the first rule of being a creative. We should always be the first to put weird shit together. The truth is creativity and technology will give us a far bigger horizon than if you seperate them.

Just as an example, have a look at what my mate and great creative, Ant Keogh AKA Funkuncle is doing. Check out funkuncle_productions on Instagram. He is exploring what technology can do creatively. And, when you play, fear disappears and a whole new brilliant world of opportunity opens up.

Maybe that’s the word. Opportunity. Instead of threat. Yes, things are going to change. But that’s what creativity is all about right? The new. Nostalgia and creativity are not really great bedfellows. If you are creative you should love change. The truth is in this business we talk about disruption and being the crazy ones all the time. But, has advertising really changed in the last 50 years? And, do you weep for all the typesetters who lost their jobs when photoshop came out?

The opportunity to do more than you ever could shouldn’t be a threat. Taste, subtlety and restraint, context and human experience will still be required. And, I would guess way more than before. Because there is also a whole lot of mediocre shit that is about to be made. If there is one thing I know, it is that just because you have the tool it doesn’t mean you know how to use it. You need technology and creativity.

It is how we will make sense of now and then.