One of the biggest myths that clients believe about creativity is that adrenalin is the secret ingredient behind great work. In other words, they believe that great work is produced when the artist, composer or the writer is under time pressure. This influences the amount of time clients allocate to agencies to respond to briefs.
There is also a belief that being a good creative means you are able to churn out great creative quickly.
We’ve unfortunately reached in a point in our industry where the following statements have become commonplace:
- “creatives work best under pressure”,
- “agencies produce their best work when they have competition”,
- “just get your best creative brains in a room and you will crack a big idea in no time” and
- “we’ve given you a big idea; what’s taking you so long?”
These statements point to serious misalignment between agencies and clients. I accept that clients are under pressure to deliver and often time is not on their side. Unfortunately, the creative process should not be rushed.
We all know what you end up with when you rush ideas. If advertising is the largest line item on the marketing budget, does it make sense to rush it and risk compromising the final product? This rush to get work out at all costs not only impacts upon the final product but it kills agency morale and enthusiasm.
My worry is I don’t think many clients realise that they play a big part in driving agency morale. Revenue and profits don’t drive morale. A great working environment does.
Clients can do a lot to provide to enable a great working environment for their agencies. They should embrace this responsibility because there is a strong link between agency morale and great creative.
Clients need to balance being demanding, on the one hand, with being compassionate and understanding on the other. Humility and passion go a long way in motivating agencies. Clients who possess humility and passion see themselves as facilitators of great work and not just judges or critics of creative work. Judges poke holes and do not see themselves as part of the solution. They are quick to blame and point fingers at the agency when the idea tests badly in research or when their colleagues criticise the idea.
True partners fight for the work. They share the blame when things go wrong. They trust their judgment and back themselves to win, even when pre-testing goes against them. They understand that theirs is to support and inspire, not to hinder progress by giving needlessly wordy and incoherent briefs and impossible deadlines.
In the trenches
They don’t stand on the sidelines waiting for the agency to fail; they are in the trenches with their agency partners to get the best work out.
I’ve seen agencies thrive under these conditions and I’ve also seen client-agency relationships last for decades — because of these conditions.
Agencies reward such partnerships by allowing a lot more client access to the creative process, something which is normally not open or accessible for clients. Clients get brought in at the tail end to critique the work. A trusted partner is brought into brainstorms and tissue sessions so that, when the final cake gets served, it is owned and promoted by everyone.
Another reason creativity should not be rushed is that advertising is both a profession and an art form. As such, it needs to be viewed in the same light as other art forms such as music, art, design and fashion.
Craft needs more time
Great ideas need time and craft needs even more. How long do you think it takes to write a script for a movie? How long do you think paintings such as the Mona Lisa took? How long does it take a musician to write songs for an album? Not a week and certainly not a day.
The advertising industry provides professional services to clients, pretty much like lawyers, architects, consultants and accountants do. What these professions have in common is that they all sell very important services. Services which should not be rushed.
My view is that advertising is also a high-stakes industry. It is a very expensive undertaking and, because it is consumed by almost everyone in society, it has a huge impact on a brand’s welfare.
You would never rush your lawyer or your accountant or your architect. Because we want the best service out of these professionals and because we respect their craft, we accept their turnaround times without much question. Why can’t advertising be afforded the same courtesy and level of trust?
Are there things that we, as advertising professionals, may learn from these other professions that will lend more credibility to our craft? Is there something in our image that needs correcting? Or do clients just need to change their attitudes?