Creative Insights: Dentsu's Graham Alvarez-Jarratt on voraciously consuming ideas, art and culture

By AdNews | 23 April 2024

Creative Insights is an AdNews series investigating and uncovering the secrets of the creative side of advertising.

Dentsu Creative strategy partner: Graham Alvarez-Jarratt

How did you fall into the industry? Was it deliberate or a misstep?

A ‘deliberate misstep’? Is that a thing?

I was studying Marketing in Uni, and was considering doing an MBA. A professor suggested I instead apply for the AFA’s (what the ACA was, 2 or 3 incarnations ago) Graduate Program.

A few dozen people were invited to participate in a Lord-of-the-Flies-style day of exercises and challenges.

I was one of the ten or so that was left at the end of the day, all limbs still intact, and was offered a position at JWT (what VML was, 2 or 3 iterations ago).

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

Being a voracious consumer of ideas, art, and culture.

Even the things that challenge you. (Especially the things that challenge you.)

It helps you cultivate your taste. Your preferences. Your worldview. Your way to unlock creativity.

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?

The ‘optimisation’ of how ideas come to be.

This is the curse of the algorithm. This is why so much music sounds reductive. And why all the biggest movies are sequels, prequels, and reboots.

The creative product is therefore being backed into a corner. To work harder, to be cheaper, to tick more boxes.

As problematic as this is, it also creates an opportunity.

That which manages to surprise, and be genuinely novel, is even more standout if what it is competing against is all flat and dull and a facsimile of what it is standing alongside.

Do you wear the black t-shirt uniform or are you a nonconformist?

Can’t I do both?

Can commercial creativity only take place in a room full of people in black T-shirts?

Of course, the answer to this is a resounding ‘no’. So much research has emerged in recent times underscoring the importance of diversity (of people, of ideas, of backgrounds, of cultures) in delivering innovation and creativity.

But I don’t think the opposite of this is true either. It shouldn’t create the illusion that commercial creativity is something everyone can do. 

The idea that “great ideas can come from anywhere” is often heard in organisations. Which is a warm and lovely thought. But it also greatly devalues the skill and craft of creativity in pursuit of commercial returns.

I, and other creative folk, have put in the “10,000 hours”, so to speak.

We must respect the skill and profession of commercial creativity.

After all, I’m handy with a spreadsheet, but I’ve never presumed to tell my accountant how to do my taxes.

What was the latest campaign that you worked on that you really enjoyed?

Launching “Imagine” for Temple & Webster was a treat.

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