When was the last time you briefed a doctor about your symptoms and greeted his professional diagnosis with: “but that’s not creative?” Or the most recent occasion you discussed a needed repair to your car’s engine, dismissing the mechanic’s reply as “notnearly imaginative enough?”
Advertising agencies are plagued with these kindsof comments from clients, as well asfrom internal sources, such as senior managers, account managers and sometimes even planners. It’s this kind of reaction to carefully produced work that can be the catalyst for inter-departmental animosity, an unhealthy work culture and even depression amongstthe senior creative talent.
This form of negativity is driving agencies to generate work which is different simply for the sake of being different. It might look very good on screen or on paper, and it might tick all the boxes for imagination, but it doesn’t resonate with the public. It has headlines that appear inventive, yet these never connect with the ordinary person in the street. This work contains strategies that sound so complicated you are compelled to believe they are good, based on nothing more than this complexity itself.
The root cause for this syndrome is the belief that simple is not good enough. An insight is not an insight until it’s a scientific revelation. Lost in the perceived need to be creative is the simple truth that we are actually in the business of providing solutions – honest and carefully thought out advice. Just as with a doctor or a mechanic, this advice doesn’t have to be overly imaginative, unique or ‘out-of-the-box’ in order for it to fulfill its function.
As a strategic planner and agency head, I feel that we need to tackle this issue during the account-planning phase of the brief. The more we can involve a client and the core team in planning, the better. If there are concerns that the insight is not unique enough to spark brilliant ideas, then the team must question if there is a need for such uniqueness in the first place.
One particular method of pushing simplicity in ideas is to create a culture around it. A culture where common sense prevails and simplicity in all its forms is practiced;be it with humour, communication within the office, or interactions with clients.
I feel that we are losing the power of simplicity in ideas simply because we have decided to call ourselves a ‘creative agency’ and have established departments labelled with that adjective. In focusing too much on the creative aspect of our work, I believe that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I look at some of the most successful TV commercials or print advertising from around the world and I always come to the same conclusion. The simpler the better.