creativity or design

The apprentice creativesThe apprentice creatives

For months, the latest season of The Apprentice has filled our television screens with young business types trying to solve brand problems for some of the biggest names in the country.

The candidates on the show are a mix of bright young self-starters and expensively educated MBAs. It’s interesting that in almost every single recent episode, the candidates have to solve a problem that involves creativity or design..

They are not tasked with solving production issues, management issues or personnel problems, because that wouldn’t make compelling television, instead design and advertising are seen as the sexy, but more importantly, the palatable and accessible sides of the business world.

What’s most frightening for people involved in the creative services profession, is that it creates the impression that any one can do this. When some of the biggest brands in the country seem willing to place their trust in un-proven talent, it seems to further reinforce this idea.

Obviously, it’s more complex than that, there’s a clear deal going on here with the brands desperate to leverage and maximize the attention from the show. It’s not about quality of the finished solution, but the fact the solution was birthed and seen by millions of consumers across America.

However, thanks to shows like The Apprentice, design and advertising can be seen as the sexy side of business culture. The creative industries now need to recognize this and make sure that the best work is seen and merchandised on Wall Street, as much as it is on Madison Avenue.

With the creative awards season upon us, now would seem like a good time to do this.

Otherwise, the myth that anyone with an MBA, a large espresso and marker pen, can create effective brilliance, will continue to be perpetuated.

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Toyota takes scion to europe

Toyota takes scion to europeToyota takes scion to europe

Toyota is taking much is its learning from the successful launch of the Scion to Europe in the form of the Aygo. Although the Aygo is a completely different design from the Scion, similar marketing tactics will be used.

Like Scion, Toyota intends to use the brand as a bridge to the parent Toyota, it will be launched with a non-traditional marketing effort that includes events and the internet

This “Scion-like” marketing is already underway on the web, where you can find 10 European artists creating their own design treatment for the Aygo. The website has expected features like mixers, mobile logos, urban diaries and screensavers.

The car is more of a Smart competitor, in the newly developing micro-city-car space and boasts the astonishing fuel economy of 61 mpg. This is the type of car that could do well in China given the urban congestion and pollution problems.

It will be really interesting to see if Toyota can achieve success in Europe by using a US type marketing approach.

Clemmow, Hornby and Inge handles the European advertising account

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Brand like a humanBrand like a human

We keep going on about Flickr, but there’s good reason. They do a lot of things right, especially with their brand voice. This message, the distorted little jpeg in the right hand corner, is a screen grab from the site on Saturday night.

The site was down for server maintenance or something, they could have just said that. Instead, they added a touch of humor and instead of getting pissed because the site is down you leave with a smile.

Smart and human- it’s not really that difficult.

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Pixar goes hi-browPixar goes hi-brow

It’s one thing doing huge numbers at box office and another critical acclain. Pixar already has these and it’s going one step further with an endorsement from the art world. Cartoons and animation have often been frowned upon by the art establishment as lo-brow, but Pixar could be stepping away from the pack. It appears that Pixar’s work is now officially hi-brow, as next week, New York’s MOMA hosts a retrospective review of 20 years of the company’s work.. The show starts on December 14th.

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Who will rule the living room

Who will rule the living room?Who will rule the living room?

Following the over-hyped E3 announcements of PS3 and Xbox360, there is much debate amongst gamers on the processing power of the consoles and if the visuals shown at both presentations were pre-rendered or not. This being E3, it’s about gaming, but clearly both consoles are about far more than that or are they?

These consoles are supposed to represent the future of home entertainment and it’s interesting to see how Microsoft and Sony each has a very different visions of what that should be. These visions are essentially extensions of each company’s core competence.

Sony presented PS3 as a quantum leap in gaming as an experience. It offered up a compelling vision that was almost a sc-fi writers view of gaming’s future; a place inhabited by lifelike characters and massively imersive environments, where separating the real from the fake is almost impossible.

Add to this, PS3’s ability to play the next-level in DVD quality in Blu-Ray and you have a machine that is all about the enhancing the entertainment experience in the living room.

Microsoft is on a very different track. It is certainly highlighting the power of the console as a games machine, but they are also heavily pushing community, connectivity, customization and commerce. These are four attributes that the Internet has already brought to the PC and things that Microsoft knows quite a lot about. Microsoft’s living room is starting to look very different from Sony’s.

Ultimately, the consumer will decide which one they prefer, but it seems obvious that Microsoft has the biggest challenge ahead of them, not only to catch up with Sony, but also to sell their new vision. Microsoft desperately wants Xbox to expand beyond the current hard-core group of gaming users and reach a mass audience, but the trouble appears to be that much of what Microsoft is offering is already available for the masses on their PC.

Why would a consumer want to buy an additional machine, if the only benefit is doing what you do on your PC, in your living room?

For Microsoft, customization is a nice addition, but only if the machine performs and commerce is something of a double-edged sword; while it suggests flexibility and ease, it also shows how gaming could be an increasingly expensive pastime.

So to succeed, Microsoft must develop a single-minded positioning that focuses in on the Xbox360 as quantum leap in the gaming experience, because it combines both power and connectivity. This could be compelling enough to move non-gamers from their PC to an Xbox360 in their living room, where they can happily engage in commerce and customization.

So despite the hype over the future of the living room, the starting point for both companies has to be about the future of gaming. Both companies clearly have different visions of this; Sony is about power and Microsoft is about connectivity. If they start with gaming, it will be much easier to add in the other elements that have the potential to transform the living room experience.

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