Thursday, December 04, 2008

Some thoughts on The Creative Farmhouse

I just got out of a long drawn out session with 30 planners on what inspires creatives. It’s one of those meetings where everyone carries themselves into the room huffing and puffing even more so when the young enthusiastic planner wants to go first and pops his 15 slide presentation on 'why they didn't kick me out of the briefing this time round'.

Contrary to the strategic cynics, turns out the session wasn’t too bad and got everyone pretty involved, led to some heated debate, some swearing and a 20 minute run over the schedualed time, 2 hours. The initial premise I was arguing was boycotting anything called a systematic approach to briefings. A while back I was wasting my time reading a crappy sequel to beyond disruption entitled 'how disruption brought about order'… and despite it’s mediocrity in relation to its predecessors, it did make me feel good about working in adverting for a change by reflecting on one interesting point; we have more difference in an ad agency than most other industries…That led me to wonder whether or not a 'standard operating procedure', whereby you stick a coin in a creative and out pops an idea, is a good idea. Essentially, to assume there is one single way to brief all is to assume that there is one single type of creative. Although after viewing most of their work you wouldn't be crazy to presume it is the case, the more optimistic of us would like to believe that there is difference in creative departments. A difference celebrated by observing any work produced by Mr. Ogilvy and Mr.Bernbach or Bill and David as they're known to their friends.

Most creatives I work with tend to lean toward, the simple is better, 2 word propositions written on anything that isn’t a template, I suggest napkins. Then again I’ve had my life threatened by a creative who I recall had to borrow words of the legendary ‘White men can’t jump’ when he ever so politely asked me to ‘get that shit out of here’. To assume all creative’s think the same,work the same and are inspired the same is to assume that a collection of what many refer to as a diverse group of individuals are homogenous…it would make sense to keep such planners far away from segmentation studies in the future. So i suppose best to find out how your creative like to work, do they like to be brought in early during the client brief, or at the very end? Find out how much they want to know, do they like elaborate 6 hours briefs? Or 2 words on a handkerchief?

Considering my first point was about difference in the department, it would be clumsy for me to refer to them as creatives instead of at least breaking them down into writers and art directors. Both are dramatically different, their thought process is different. I’ve noticed that art directors think executional a whole lot more than writers who in more cases than not are more conceptual. The best place to hide ‘no idea’ is on a Mac behind a skilled art director. Frankly, I worry about the future of the quintessential perfectionist art directors who spent 5 years in prestigious graphic design institution more than I would worry about the future of a copy writer considering crafting is going to take, if not already has taken, a back stage to concept(another long running sentence).
When interacting with the creative team, I think understanding their group dynamics of who leads art director or writer is essential to 'enabling better work.

A final point I wanted to mention was the importance of understanding creative work from a creative’s stand point. Planners look at things from a very pragmatic stand point, it works, it solves the business problem, it’ll help inspire behavioral change. To many creatives their own work is a piece of art, which isn’t an epiphany. Some planner whoring them out to a client doesn't really gain their trust.

Where most planners seem to fail, including myself, is understanding a creative’s cosmos. Planners need to understand award ceremonies, Cannes, categories, they need to appreciate creative work as art not just business… A creative’s worst nightmare is someone who turns around and says ‘Hey yeah positive hate was great, but show me how many cars it sold’. So learning about art direction, the names of legendary creative directors, who won what in what year, what didn’t make it, what new categories exist, what music a spot used, what categories are easier than others to win in, what creatives are insecure about, what they studied etc…is extremely important for a good relationship with the creative department. One creative defined the role quite nicely of planning in a word… ‘Enabler’. So the question then becomes, what or where? The answer is as obvious as it is denied, Cannes.

Ask a creative what they’d rather have you do, 'enable' them to shake a clients hand over a celebration drink for exceeding forecasts or enabling them to shake a jurors hand after being handed a little statuettes of a lion.

ps. inspire is the least inspirational word one can use.

Picture of my favourite cattle at Leo, Nabil Rashid & Dima 'on the road?' Kronfol.