A creative network of the idea, by the idea, for the idea

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why some decisions are better made without thinking.

I always get excited when I find scientific or psychological explanations to the everyday mysteries of the corporate world.

I enjoyed this article by Jonah Lehrer about choking under pressure. But what I really loved is what this means to us creatives as we try to do our job of generating ideas.

In his post Lehrer uses golf as a frame of reference and it short it goes like this:
When people are first learning how to putt, the activity can seem daunting. There are just so many things to think about.

But the mental exertion pays off, at least at first. The more time a novice golfer spend thinking about the putt, the more likely they are to hit the ball in the hole.

A little experience, however, changes everything. When experienced golfers are forced to think about their putts, they hit significantly worse shots. The part of their brain that monitors their behavior starts to interfere with decisions that are normally made without thinking. They begin second guessing the skills that they've honed through years of diligent practice.

So what should experienced golfers think about when hitting a putt? They should should focus on general aspects of their intended movement.

Or as we like to call it in advertising, "the bigger picture".

I think that this mental process speaks wonders about practicing and trust. When you have put enough time into practicing, you should stop thinking about the mechanics and trust your instincts.

I'm happy that now I have a psychological explanation, if only that meant that we would put it in practice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's all about optimism.

I really like the blog by W+K London. Its called Welcome to optimism and it's a refreshing dose of smart writing and creative company culture.

I like this post about advice to creatives showing their book at an agency. I kind of feel like I should have written about this subject. Oh, well... it happens.

Here is the list:

1. Keep it quick. Creatives looking at your book have limited time so make the most of the opportunity. Keep storyboards and radio short and sweet.

2. A balanced book tends to have between 7-9 ad campaigns and a few other creative ideas.

3. Get to the bottom of a brand. Try to find out what makes them different to everyone else and what’s at the heart of their product and their company.

4. Demonstrate different tones of voice. How does this brand talk to people? What’s their personality?

5. Find different ways of talking to people. You don’t always need to conform to the conventional. Logos don’t have to sit in corners. Photos don’t have to be funny. And long copy is not scary.

6. Do more than just press ads. There are many other interesting ways of exploring an idea. What are the appropriate media for your idea? What medium is right for your audience? What will draw people in and surprise them? (TV, press, radio, online, viral, ambient, talking dogs…)

8. Expand at least one of your ideas into a big campaign and prove it’s not just a one off poster or TV ad.

9. We like to find out about you as well as seeing your book. Show us your matchbox collection, the short film that you’re making on the side or your greatest baking success. We see tons of ads, but sometimes it’s these little funny things that sums up who you are.

7. Listen and take notes too. You’d be surprised how many people don’t! Which is annoying to creatives who’ve given up their time to see you.

10. The advertising world is small so don’t piss people off or others might get to hear about it.

11. If you like a particular team, try to go back to them again with more work. Try to build a relationship. This will help you make more contacts, they may recommend you to their advertising friends and colleagues.

As a junior creative, when yuo don't know where you stand yet, and senior creatives give you their professional opinion, remember what they say in Hollywood; at the end of the day nobody knows anything.

The life cycle of a creative idea.

I found an interesting analogy on The Pixar Touch by David A. Price that I think applies to creativity and how is handled by agencies and clients.
The cycle of a film is like that of fruits and vegetables. You try to plan it well in advance and you lay your seeds, put your fertilizer on, you water it, make sure it is nourished and all that. When it is ready to pick, it is ready to pick.
I think its brilliant because the creative process (or any other process for that matter) is this simple and this useful when you follow it.
  • Plan it well in advance means understanding that creativity (like fruit and vegetables) follows a process that takes time and doesn't happen overnight.
  • Laying the seed is about picking the raw materials with the best quality. This is about the hiring of the right creative minds, building the right team, selecting the type of "fruit" you will be picking up later on. You can't plant a potato and expect an onion.
  • Put your fertilizer on. Without nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium the plant simply cannot grow because it cannot make the pieces it needs. The chemicals elements of the creative mind are a defined and simple goal, confidence, freedom to explore and collaboration.
  • Water it, make sure it is nourished and all that. In one word: love. Achieving a balance of love is important though. Just like with water, too much or to little could ruin the outcome. It's love given to small ideas and big ones, for ugly ones and cute ones. Love as in providing room for an idea to grow. And believe me, is all about love.
  • When it is ready to pick, it is ready to pick. If you have done everything right, the weather helped, the soil was good and you got lucky, you can go and pick the idea up. Its amazing to me how many people inside the business think that creativity is just the action of going to the field and picking up ideas.
Every creative enterprise goes through this cycle. If you respect it and follow it, you'll pick up great fruits and vegetables.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What bacteria can teach the next creative generation

TED is full of wisdom. No matter who talks, about what subject, sharing whatever type of knowledge. One always walks away improved.

Watching this passionate and useful presentation by Bonnie Bassler I thought about creativity and the creative professional.

The market is shaping new roles and new disciplines, and the marketing creative is not inmune to those changes.

Bacteria is kind of a superhero. Powerful and always present, and I think that we can learn a little bit from bacteria when thinking of the super creative of tomorrow.
  • Its all about DNA. Anybody can be creative. I believe that to heart. But not everybody can deal with tight deadlines, be creative on demand and be conceptual with restrictions. Is more about who you are and whether or not is in your DNA.
  • Bacteria do many things. Mostly good and some bad. Creatives create 30" TV ads, but that's just a small % of your talents. Creative will do many creative things.
  • Bacteria turn on group behavior. They talk to each other, are inclusive and cooperate. The creative lone rider is, I think, no longer working.
  • Bacteria is Multi-lingual. Creatives need to speak different languages to collaborate with multiple disciplines: Planners, engineers, web designers, art directors, product developers, user experience designers, clients...
  • Bacteria develop defenses. I think that adapting is essential for creatives. New clients, new brands, new partners, new boss, new rules, new playground. But same game: generate ideas with value.
  • Bacteria do things together because it makes a difference. They have collective behavior and carry out tasks that they could never accomplish if they simply acted as individuals.
  • There is chemistry between bacteria. At the end of the day, without chemistry bacteria wouldn't accomplish any of the things its supposed to accomplish.
Perhaps creatives could become the new bacteria of the marketing industry. Wouldn't that be sick!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The ideal candidate

The advertising industry has one of the highest turnovers in the professional world.
It's not surprising though.
This fast paced world of high emotions and big egos is draining. Most people I've worked with are always looking for the next opportunity, a deserving promotion and a bigger check.

Now we are facing a delicate situation because of the economy downturn and the next opportunity might appear sooner than expected.

That's why I thought about sharing what makes the ideal creative candidate as well as the ideal boss (I don't think that we should look up to for the traditional agency anymore. As a matter of fact, the most creative work, with the most challenging briefs and most rewarding accounts might be in digital agencies, design studios and small creative boutiques)

The Ideal Candidate
  • Your talent can't be restrained. No TV? No Print? You did coasters. You edited old Nike commercials into a 30".
  • You always offer solutions. Your positive opinion is important. Add value.
  • You are interesting. Your creativity reaches beyond marketing and advertising.
  • You are curious. you want to know why?
  • You have a reason. Aimless creativity is the worst kind in this business. In art is cool though.
  • You flirt with strategy. Your best friend is a planner. Even better, you are married to one.
  • You explore everywhere because you know that ideas are found.
  • You know that all this is just a big dance, and you are a good dancer.
  • You stay ahead of me. Making yourself essential for me to stay ahead.
  • You push forward. And you know when to stop pushing.
The ideal boss. (A human angle from the great Creative Director)
  • Your ideal boss is not cynical. Having seen it all doesn't mean hating it all.
  • Your ideal boss still cares. Because if the boss doesn't care, who cares?
  • Your ideal boss is still learning.
  • Your ideal boss is ahead of you. Making himself essential for you to stay ahead.
  • Your ideal boss writes a blog. if you have to ask read the previous point.
  • Your ideal boss doesn't discuss politics. That's why he is the boss.
  • Your ideal boss listens.
  • Your ideal boss pushes you. And knows when to ease the push.
  • Your ideal boss works with you. It takes a team.
If you find the right boss, take the job. Forget the salary if you can. The reward will pay itself back to you a hundred times more valuable than money.

I know is hard, but talent survives. It always does. Don't settle. Keep on learning. One day it all will make sense. I promise you that.

The ideal candidate is optimistic.

Post inspired by summation