I totally agree. The last year – if not longer – hasn’t left me with any memories of truly outstanding creative work.
Creative is getting boring.
Here’s what we can do about it…
In the interests of disclosure, I’m a risk taker. I always have been and always will be.
I figure that it’s better to give something a go, fail horribly, learn and move on than to sit in a corner and wonder “What if?”
“What if?” will never get you anywhere productive (unless you’re Honda, of course).
And this is the time to take risks.
Beattie’s right – advertising has become mundane. A once vibrant powerhouse of creativity has turned safe, grey, dull. Sure, part of that’s due to the economic downturn – brands want stability and to be here tomorrow more than they might want a risky cutting edge treatment, but some of it’s probably due to complacency as well.
Awards are a big problem (as I know from experience). Award givers like what they like and if you can give them what they like, you’ll probably win something for it.
Just as email and online storage has reached price zero in a race to the bottom, so has some creativity. Homogenisation is something to be feared, not lauded.
So combine the fears and unrest of a global downturn and a increasingly incestuous award-based system, and you’ve got the makings of some very, very dull creative.
This is an opportunity for you, me and anyone else prepared to take a risk.
Suppose you took a risk, and it paid off. Suppose that you produced a daring, different, vibrant TV spot which connected with the heart of the consumer and triggered action.
Suppose that spot got people talking the next morning around the proverbial water cooler.
You would stand out like a flare gun at midnight.
In a dry, dull arid creative climate, your work would be the shower that reignites conversation, passion and – ultimately – behavioural change.
So what do we need to think about before taking these creative risks and leaps of faith?
1) Don’t take a risk.
Take a calculated risk. They are two very different things.
Look at this Tweet, for example from Simon Manchipp of SomeOne:
I argued that there’s no such thing as “too creative”.
If I was Simon/the SomeOne team, I’d have got to know the client intimately. I would have got to know their customers intimately. I’d have looked into and understood brand heritage and vision. I’d have paid detailed attention to the goals of the campaign.
I’d have taken a calculated risk based on everything that I knew about the brand, the customer and the outcome of the campaign and how far I figured that I could push them. I wouldn’t have thrown something risky out there without being damn sure I’d done the calculation first.
I would have used all of my professional experience, creativity and understanding to produce something that isn’t “too creative” but actually perfect for the client and their goals.
“Too creative” is for art – which is beauty without strategy.
A well thought out campaign that touches the hearts and minds of the audience can never, ever, be “too creative”. Which is where I reckon SomeOne got it so right and won the business.
2) Be authentic to the brand
If you want to take a calculated risk, it’s got to be in line with the overall brand and positioning.
Compare The Meerkat works well (although it’s fast becoming wallpaper) because Compare The Market were an upstart challenger brand who wanted to gain mindspace in a crowded market.
The same campaign would work terribly for a more settled, heritage, brand that relies on a certain perception to make sales.
Gucci, for example, wouldn’t have Meerkats running about. Nor would the British Royal Family.
If the brand desires a Compare The Meerkat effect, then they need more than an advertising campaign. They possibly need a rebrand as well to ensure that their new status is embedded throughout the business.
3) Connect emotionally.
All of the best advertising connects emotionally. But we haven’t seen much of that recently.
Connecting emotionally to the audience, speaking to their hopes, their fears or their dreams is a sure-fire way to prove that you’ve taken a highly calculated approach to your risk. And by doing this, you can mitigate some of the potential for radical fallout.
Without this connection, the work is flippant at best, disrespectful at worst.
4) Be nervous.
In the Marketing Week piece, CEO of ING Direct Richard Doe admits to being nervous before a campaign breaks.
I argue that if you’re not nervous, if your palms aren’t sweaty, you probably haven’t taken a risk.
And by placing it safe and doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Which, I’m guessing, isn’t why you’re commissioning new creative in the first place…
So, my bottom line, rallying-call is this:
Be brave; be different; be daring – but be calculating more than anything else.
And take that damn risk.