Google Creative Lab talks about creativity as a force for good

Google Creative Lab is a group of interdisciplinary thinkers and doers, from backgrounds such as design, film, business leaders, creative technologists, who work out of three hubs around the world: NYC, London and Sydney, whose primary focus is to communicate what Google has to offer.  But while Google is not just a search engine, Google Creative Lab is not your average advertising department either, pushing to make an impact throughout the world, that outweighs their footprint.   Today at the Palais, Robert Wong, Chief Creative Officer and Steve Vranakis, Executive Creative Director of Google Creative Lab took us on an inspiring journey on how they are using creativity to do exactly that, while staying true to Google’s core principles and beliefs.

To discover what creativity can do, however, Steve tells us we need to understand what creativity is. It’s the power or capability to do incredible things not only for ourselves, our clients, their businesses but also for everything else going on in the world right now that needs our help. Embodying Google’s core value of always focusing on the user, Google Creative Lab think up ways to connect people and brands with the magic of cutting edge technology.  In their view, storytelling with tech certainly allows us to do some incredible things, but tech is meaningless unless it impacts peoples’ lives in a positive way.

Robert and Steve’s impact can be seen in everything from the Google redesign, which Larry Page asked them to complete in just two weeks, through to Google Doodle, with an interactive, playable logo mimicking the structure of a real electric guitar, on which you can also riff and record for up to 30 seconds. This doodle was so popular that, in the US alone, users recorded a total of 5.1 years’ worth of music during the doodle’s first 48 hours online!

People never forget how you make them feel and their Dear Sophie campaign for Chrome certainly tapped into exactly that sentiment.  With this ad GCL humanize the company, bringing warmth to a cold tech product, told through a story of a father’s love for his daughter and the digital scrapbook he kept about her life, thanks to Google products.

So, what else can creativity do? Well, it can bring dinosaurs back to life via Google Cardboard but it can also give power to others.   The team worked on a project called Assembly of Youth, which used feature phones and SMS to bring the voices of children around the world directly to their representatives at the United Nations General Congress. In conjunction with Unicef’s uReport platform, ‘Assembly of Youth’ asked thousands of young people to share their hopes, fears and aspirations, and presented them to some of the world’s most influential people in a powerful display in the atrium of the UN HQ in New York.

Creativity can also help people rebuild a nation. Google has projects empowering women in the Middle East, through applications such as an App that simplifies the law so women are fully aware of their rights, through to developing skills and training programs in Greece, to help the 43% of unemployed youths back into work.

And Google has invested significantly in helping refugees from Syria.  In 2015, up to 7000 refugees were landing on Greek Islands every day. They arrived only with the necessities: legal documentation and, for the first time in a crisis like this, their phones. Unfortunately, the little information that was available to them online was usually outdated, inaccurate, or in a language they didn’t understand. So, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and Google created Refugee Info Hub: a mobile site for NGOs to provide refugees with reliable, up-to-date information in their native language.  Built and launched in just 36hrs and now accessed by over 1k refugees every single day, this initiative shines a light on the power of creativity and tech to fundamentally help lives.

Robert believes that collaboration between art and science, between story and fabrication is essential for scientific and creative innovation.  We must all ‘write the fiction of the science’ to inspire the engineers and the technology they build.

Purpose has been a dominant theme across Cannes this year, with many a panel discussing the need for brands to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, when it comes to their core values. Google has already been on this journey for some time, with the Google Creative Lab fully committed to exploiting the power of creativity and tech, to generate positive impact on society and the environment.

So, bringing it right back to the question of what creativity can do?  In the eyes of Steve and Robert, it looks for ways to make things better – and that’s a good thing whether you’re delivering a campaign or helping those who need it.