First there was the industrial revolution. Then there was the information revolution. Now, says Cartoon Network president Christina Miller, we must prepare for the creativity revolution. It’s an imperative both for individuals looking for their place in the new economy, and for companies creating products for new generations—digital natives who expect a seamless experience of digital products. That’s an intimidating demand if you’re not a digital native yourself, so Miller suggests that companies actively listen to their audience, and even turn to them for fresh ideas.
CHRISTINA MILLER: So screen time—I think a lot of people do different things on their screens at this point.
So it is a little bit of a traditional point of “Hey, too much screen time is bad for you,” because—at least for people my age you think of that meaning too much TV.
So it’s about there being choice and control of what that screen time is.
So: are you playing games? Are you watching content? Are you creating stuff? Is it a passive experience? Is it an active experience?
When things work best you’re also able to connect the digital to the physical, so I think that there’s a large gray area now between too much screen time.
It just needs to be defined a bit better. Do you mean too much of a passive watching experience, or do you mean the ability to do a lot of different things to be empowered, to create, to be given tools for creative expression, to be problem-solving and collaborative while being entertained?
I think if it’s that latter, you’d find people saying right at the age we serve (which is the generally six plus), that there is I think more good than bad—if in fact it’s an active, immersive experience as opposed to a one-way passive experience.
We call them plurals. We’ve done a lot of generational research as an overall for Turner, and that was the term that I guess we collectively—obviously Time Warner as an organization—had coined very early on before they were called Generation Z, which I think in fairness is a little less descriptive and it just comes from “Hey we were Generation Y, we were Generation X, so you just go down the alphabet.”
But a lot of people have different names, plurals because of the plurality of the way they consume content and everything they do.
If millennials needed lists because they didn’t come of age—truly the information revolution was happening around them and they needed help filters sorting things out—this generation doesn’t.
They are really comfortable with choice and they actually want to control it. And if you don’t move quick enough for them, like Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late, if you don’t move quick enough for them they just move onto the next thing, because they realize that they have a whole lot of choice and they want to control that.
So I think the plurality of everything available to them is more indicative than just a letter.
So, Cartoon Network focuses really on creative confidence and this core belief that we have an obligation to raise the next generation of creators, makers and innovators. So if you believe that there was an industrial revolution, an information revolution, we believe that the next one is all about creativity—that if there was a time where people were referring to “geeks inheriting the earth,” well I think the whole-brain thinkers and the creative folks will really be the ones that supercharge innovation in the future.
And making sure the kids know that, if you learn things like coding and computer science, that it doesn’t just mean “engineer” or “programmer,” but it can mean “animator”, “video game developer”, it can mean learning skills for self-expression that will help you through the rest of your life.
I grew up in Generation X over here, I grew up and I was always told that team sports really helped you in the future so it built better leaders, it helped you with working in a larger team.
If you believe that, and there’s definitely some truth to it, but if you apply that to things like coding and giving kids creative tools to learn self-expression, that ability to solve problems—to work collaboratively, to create and make—will serve them and ready them for anything that comes next, not just necessarily to “hey, be an animator.”
So I think that’s the—if you want to change the world, you start with kids because everything else is iterative. If you really buy into that, I think that’s the higher thinking reason why to do it.
On the flipside of that, the commercial reason why they do it I would say is: they expect it from us.
At the earliest stages they’re starting to, again, learn to swipe before anything else, learning to participate in their media, whether it means they go and they play Minecraft and they start to add to that building or they want to play games that allow them to draw whiskers on things or put ears on things, they expect there to be some amount of “give and get” and us meeting their expectations is core to what we do.
So being able to do everything from create animation to create games to create content and experiences that puts them at the forefront has to reflect them. So a lot of the ways we find our way into that sweet spot between creativity and technology is by reflecting our audience.
And of course we want to do right by them, both in the day-to-day and sort of in a bigger way.