AKQA on what's crushing creativity

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While some are bemoaning a lack of creativity in the interactive field, Lars Bastholm begs to differ. According to Bastholm, co-chief creative officer for AKQA, there's plenty of inspired thinking and creativity waiting to spring forth -- restrictive formats are just damming the creative flow.

Staunch regulations for banners and overbearing mobile carriers are stopping agencies from flexing their creative muscles and developing truly great campaigns. When it comes to mobile, the U.S. is a third-world country, and it's simply the carriers that are holding it back.

Save the date! Hear more from Lars Bastholm during his iMedia Breakthrough Summit keynote, "Advertising & Innovation: Fusing the Big Idea with the Business," March 22 in Coconut Point, Florida. Request your invitation today!

"Once they realize what the rest of the world has realized, then we're going to see leaps and bounds in creativity and the possibilities for doing interesting stuff online and on mobile phones," Bastholm said.

A respected member of the interactive community for 14 years, Bastholm has won dozens of international awards for his campaigns. After starting up Grey Interactive, he served as creative director for Framfab in Copenhagen and has been an integral part of AKQA since 2004. iMedia recently caught up with him to discuss his creative process, the fields that limit creativity, and how he keeps AKQA at the head of the interactive pack.

Lars Bastholm is co-chief creative officer for AKQA.
iMedia: Without thinking, name your favorite device, application, and website.

Lars Bastholm: Totally the iPhone, without a doubt, and for a very specific reason. To me, the fact that it's a phone is somewhat irrelevant. It's the fact that it's completely changed the way I interact with data on the go. I literally access anything that I need at a computer, wherever I am, and that's just changed the way I interact with content and data.

For applications, it's Twitterrific to Twitter. Whenever I travel I use that a lot. I use Yelp a lot to find restaurants wherever I am. There are just tons of applications that allow you to make shortcuts that are simpler and easier for you.

And like so many others, my communication has moved to Twitter for the time being, so right now, I can't live without that website.

iMedia: AKQA has been named "agency of the year" by several publications in the past. Do you see the agency as frontrunner in the digital space? How do you stay ahead of the pack?

Bastholm: I guess so. We're always trying to imagine what will happen two to three years in the future and how we can best prepare ourselves for that eventuality. So far, that's worked out fairly well for us in terms of being on the right beat and finding which technologies to use and which sectors to kind of gamble on.

I think one of the big advantages of AKQA is that we're basically a collection of people who are really into what we're doing. We talk amongst ourselves all the time about what's next, how we need to change in order to adapt to what's next, and how the work is going to change. And how do we do that? Obviously we read a ton of blogs and a ton of stuff that's going on online. Everybody spends a good amount of time online just to see what's happening, what's changing, and what's starting to emerge.

iMedia: You mentioned taking gambles on new technologies. Are there any gambles that have or have not paid off?

Bastholm: We started AKQA Mobile almost five years ago. Nobody was thinking of mobile as a marketing tool, and we could kind of see that, obviously, something would happen eventually on the mobile platform. We started thinking about how, even then, we could become a preferred vendor for our existing clients and maybe even start a practice of its own.

Then there are things, like interactive TV, that we've dabbled in but have never really taken off, yet. Who knows -- maybe one day someone will come up with a good solution for how [interactive TV will] play out across different channels and different types of TVs. We've done some very successful stuff in the U.K. with interactive TV, but that's because they have Sky TV over there, which seems to have cracked TV and interactivity, at least to a certain degree.

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Lori Shecter
Lori Shecter March 17, 2009 at 8:56 AM

Really sorry here, but it's like ALL media has stinky creative. Unless you have a client that is willing to take risks and go out of their safety zone. I mean, what was the last great TV creative (other than Tom Cruise sending Jimmy Kimmel into a burning house?) It's NOT about the gimmick, it's not about the rigidity of the publisher, it's not about allowing advertising to interfere in such a way the user leaves the site, it's about what the message can and can't be creatively. Tell me that Skittles did not have a fantastic campaign. That didn't seem too hard, did it?