being a creative in the 21st century
John Hegarty has a great quote about advertising. He keeps on saying:
A good ad is 80% idea, 80% execution.
I love this quote. And it got me thinking what does it take to be a good creative in our digital world. It’s pretty intense when you think about it. And I sometimes have a feeling too much time is spent on crafting executions, not enough on the idea. Yet, a good ad needs to have both.
Anyway, let’s have a look at all the things a creative has to juggle with to be able to produce a good ad (it’s not an exhaustive list):
1/ In term of execution:
– Great skill in design, being constantly aware of how to make your work stand out. Looking for new sources of great design. Finding inspiration from many sources. Flicking through art books to find stunning new visuals.
– Looking at all the work that’s being produced and learning from it.
– In the know of what new directors are doing, and how to best translate their ideas into a wonderful video. Animation, CGI…
– Same with photographers, they have to constantly browse new photographers portfolio looking for that pearl. (not to mention a good taste in music…)
– Fonts are also important and need to be looked out.
– They need obviously to have great writing skills. It is harder and harder for a piece of copy to be seen, one has to work extra hard to stand out.
– They are constantly on the look-out for what new artists are doing, specially street culture
– They have to understand the technique of screen writing and the ability to tell stories and narratives , to make them stick, not just create nice visual metaphors.
– Know and have direct contact with the best production agencies
– Understand comedy and what make people laugh (harder than it seem)
– Being able to make people feel emotions through a 30s ad is probably not as easy as it sounds
2/ In term of idea
– They have to know what the exciting new trends are, before they become mainstream
– They have to be capable of empathy and understanding their consumers and what they are into, what they love. Understanding human nature is a mandatory
– Be on the look out for memes that are getting buzz on the Internet.
– How do ideas spread and how to make sure their execution is not just a one-off but that there is a big idea that will turn it into a powerful campaign
– They have to understand what new artists are trying to say beyond how they are saying it. Marcel Duchamp wasn’t just creating art work, he was more interested in what the piece was communicating. He almost stopped producing art to focus only on ideas. Looking at his work without understanding what he was trying to say is missing the big picture.
– They have to be modern philosophers or at least being capable of having a new and fresh point of view on a boring topic.
On top of that, you have to be able to sell your ideas and be pretty convincing…
Now, if that wasn’t enough, the Internet has added much complexity to the above list. A modern creative also has to:
– Understand how to be helpful to their audience to be able to produce great branded utilities
– Think outside of the TV box, the centre of the campaign can be anything…
– Understand all the possible creative outputs: games, banners, episodic content, virals, mobile applications, social networking… Each output commanding its own set of problems / opportunities and execution styles.
– Have a perfect understanding of technology and have a realistic vision of what can be done, how to use it to its advantage and what’s just plain impossible.
– Writing and directing for the web is totally different too
– And a major point, they have to stop thinking; would that make a great ad? But would this content be sought after by my audience?
It’s a heck of a lot when you think about it. And I probaly omitted a few things. And although they do get a bit of help from planners and producers, the new media landscape has made it almost impossible for one person, even for a creative team, to be able to do perfectly all of the above.
So when I was saying ideas are the new executions, my point was that we should nurture ideas as much as we nurture executions. And that coming with ideas should be a full-time job in itself. Not just one of the many tasks a creative already has to think about.
I think coming up with great ideas and executions have become so hard and complex that they should almost be separated. We should have specialists in term of executions, as well as having idea people whose jobs it is to come up with fresh campaign ideas.
Some agencies mix planners and creative people but I think coming up with campaign ideas should almost be a job in its own right. Because it seems harder to come up with a good idea than a great execution.
When you think about it, a creative team composed of one ‘idea’ person and one ‘execution’ person would make more sense than one copywriter and one art director.
Once the ‘idea’ and the ‘execution’ creative team has agreed on the campaign, they would then get all the right people to produce the different outputs… artists, designers, producers, techies…
I know that’s quite provocative and not really there yet, but hey, it would be a step in the right direction.
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