Adrian Peter Tse
Mar 25, 2015

What marketers can learn from creative coders

Laurent Thevenet is a coder turned creative technologist. Lacking any agency or marketing background, he instead brings a startup mentality to his technical director role at BBDO Proximity in Singapore. Here, Thevenet offers practical advice to marketers who want to maximise creative tech and the mindset that comes with it.

Thevenet at Adfest 2015
Thevenet at Adfest 2015

Thevenet has no love for sacred cows, and clearly wants to see marketing and advertising evolve beyond the traditional paradigm of brief followed by execution of art and copy.

“Coders are getting confident now, and their creativity is important to the ideation process,” said Thevenet. “They bring a fresh perspective on things that you can’t have with just your traditional art and copy duo.”

But Thevenet’s vision for creative coding and its role in marketing and advertising is far more inclusive—it's integrated with all aspects of marketing.

“I think if we don’t integrate them, they [creative coders] will be frustrated,” said Thevenet. “A lot of these young coders have the potential to work on their own and there’s risk in losing great talent if we don’t work together.”

The role of creative technologist is shifting from merely determining the feasibility of a technology-driven idea, to shaping and executing ideas, working alongside the business and creative functions in marketing.  

Thevenet believes the shift is inevitable as a new generation of talent that “grew up with digital” enters the market. These professionals have a combined skill set in coding and creative.   

 

wide player in 16:9 format. Used on article page for Campaign.

 

 

Examples of creative tech work are becoming more commonplace as advertisers and marketers fuse data insights with communications. Whether it’s Honda's 'Sound of Senna' or British Airways 'Look up' campaign, creative technologists are playing a more involved and expansive role.

“It’s not technology for technology’s sake though,” said Thevenet. In the case of 'World under water', a campaign he worked on, Thevenet brainstormed with BBDO’s art director and copywriter and brought forward examples of coders doing interesting things with Google Street View.

“I thought the examples had potential, and the art director and copywriter actually came up with the idea in that case—it took five or 10 minutes of us sitting together,” said Thevenet. “We had a basic prototype done in 24 hours and showed it to our CCO.”

Developing a creative tech culture at BBDO Proximity hasn’t been without its challenges though. “I was ambitious at the start coming from a startup and what I thought would take three months, took about a year,” said Thevenet. “We quickly realised education was important and I always encourage my team to learn new things and try them out with client work." The company has run workshops on Codepen and Processing (see below) with people from the creative and business side.

The bottom-line however, is that creative and technology departments need to have a strong relationship even if they are separate departments. “Technologists are not trying to steal creativity from the creative people. We just want to move the industry foward.”

 

Thevenet’s advice for getting started with creative tech:

  • Embrace creative technologists even if they make you feel uncomfortable. Build a strong relationship; involve them in ideation and brainstorming. Think of coding as a creative discipline like singing, dancing or painting.
  • Experiment with creative coding using platforms like Codepen, an open canvas that visualises HTML, CSS and JavaScript as you code along. You can also flip through people’s examples of frontend code, see how it was done and share your own with others.

 

  • Try Processing, an open-source programming language built for the electronic arts, new media art and visual design community. Acting as a sketchbook, it allows you to get very visual and creative with an intuitive approach to code.

 

  • Look out for coding projects that have creative potential in marketing and advertising.

 

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