James Thomas

VP ‑ Creative Technology, Dentsu Aegis Network

The Dentsu Creative Academy is a platform offering learning modules and creative inspiration for all Dentsu Aegis Network Creative employees. Interviews are featured to promote new modules as they are launched on the platform, to get know our people, and to connect our colleagues around the world.

This month’s interview features James Thomas, Director, VP ‑ Creative Technology from the United Kingdom. James has curated the Adobe Creative Cloud module and responded to the below interview on the topic.

First up, what are the advantages of using Adobe Creative Cloud when it comes to your broader Creative technology strategy at Dentsu Aegis Network?

We have a best-in-class deployment of Creative Cloud at Dentsu, so we are very lucky to have access to everything that is available within Creative Cloud, which makes up one of the core foundations of The Content Symphony (Dentsu’s Content-at-Scale Solution). Using a single source of truth, the cloud-based, AI-enabled Content Symphony platform unifies people, process and technology to ensure global consistency and local variation in a 24/7 cycle. Its functions include creative intelligence, storage and management, a first-of-its-kind content marketplace, data-driven insights and automated content delivery. Integrations between Creative Cloud and the other core foundation technologies include Adstream, Workfront, Workfront Proof and Mosaic.

We know that creativity fuelled with technology can be extremely powerful. Which project(s) have you worked on that best demonstrate this?

I’m particularly excited about one of our current client projects which will showcase how technology, data and AI can come together to help inform better creative decisions. By running digital video content through our creative intelligence tool, we can use AI and machine learning to understand the video’s comprising elements and match them with performance data to identify opportunities for iteration and optimisation. For example, video with slower edits and transitions generally lead to a drop off in engagement, so teams can look to test faster edits to optimise engagement. With powerful and real-time creative intelligence at our fingertips, we can now take an already great creative asset and maximise its effectiveness even further.

If not already, how can teams collaborate on creative work across brands or regions? 

All of our Adobe Creative Cloud users have access to 1TB of cloud storage at Dentsu Aegis Network, so, in addition to having plenty of storage space, it’s also very simple to share work-in-progress project files with internal or external teams. What’s more, given it’s all cloud-based, teams are able to access these files from any machine, empowering more agile working, which is more valuable than ever given the current climate.

What advice do you have for young creative technologists who want to break into the industry? Where should they begin in terms of technologies or becoming familiar with creative tools?

I think that a formal education is obviously very important to understand the foundations of whichever area of the creative industry you’re looking to build a career in. I know a university education is not always an option for everyone, but the good news is there are now more high-quality online courses available than ever.

The barrier to entry is also getting lower all the time, with equipment and platforms getting cheaper and more powerful; you can shoot, edit and publish a 4K movie or music video just using your smartphone, for example.

I have also always been a big fan of learning by doing. Pick up a paint brush or a camera and play with it, that’s how I recently started to get into photography. There are amazing free tutorials on YouTube so whenever you get stuck, you can find a solution there, then keep playing. Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing or not having to follow a formal process is very freeing creatively, and the “happy accidents” you encounter along the way can lead to something amazing…

What Adobe Creative Cloud application could you not live without? 

Photoshop has always been my go-to app. My journey into the creative world, like a lot of people, started with Photoshop for design. I am now also getting into photography, so Photoshop paired with Lightroom are a winning combination. Adobe Stock is another must-have, which has quickly become one of the most valuable platforms for our business. Whether you’re an Editor on lockdown needing premium high-end 4K video due to not being able to shoot original material, or a Designer needing 3D objects and textures to create virtual product photo shoots, or a Client Lead looking to spruce up their Pitch deck with some eye-catching images, Adobe Stock has you covered.

What other creative software/tools are coming onto the Dentsu Creative Academy next?

As we start to roll out the Content Symphony platform (Dentsu’s Content-at-Scale solution), there will be a number of exciting new tools available. This includes: Adstream, our Global Production DAM and content delivery platform; Workfront and Workfront Proof for Project Management and Online Review & Approval; and Monotype Mosaic, which is a cloud-based enterprise font management and prototyping solution. These form the core foundation of the Content Symphony platform, but there are many more exciting AI & Automation, Creative intelligence and data tools coming soon, so watch this space…

How are you finding working from home during this pandemic? Any tips to stay motivated?

It’s actually a very exciting time for our Creative business, so thankfully I’m being kept very busy! At Dentsu Aegis Network, we are fortunately blessed with a very robust technology infrastructure, which has enabled us to all work from home very seamlessly, even in Creative and Production. While it’s more or less BAU, I do miss the social side of being in a shared space; you don’t get the same buzz or creative stimulation of an agency environment at home – so while I think our ways of working will inevitably change in the long run, I’m sure many teams are keen to achieve a better balance of working from home and going into the office. One of the positives from lockdown has been the ability to spend more time focusing on my other creative pursuits outside of work like music, art and photography, which has helped keep me sane and motivated during this time. I haven’t got onto the baking train just yet, but maybe that can be next...!?

Any additional POV, pearls of wisdom, quotes or thoughts?

There is a lot going on in the world right now and creativity can play a hugely powerful role in getting a message across. So, whatever your creative outlet is, embrace it fully and let your voice be heard.

“When learning is purposeful, creativity blossoms. When creativity blossoms, thinking emanates. When thinking emanates, knowledge is fully lit. When knowledge is lit, economy flourishes.”
 ― A.P.J. Abdul Kalam