Monday, November 20, 2006

Tips For Young Creatives No.1 - Don't Over-Polish

Although there are many, many people in this world who are better at writing ads than I am, most of them don't seem to have blogs, whereas I do. So until something better comes along, I'm going to start trying to come up with a few tips for the young creatives out there.

And if the amount of wisdom a person has can be measured by the quantity of mistakes they've made, I have quite a bit of wisdom to impart.

So here we go with Tip No. 1

It concerns the age-old question... "when do you go in?" Do you wait until you have an idea that you would die on a sword for before you go in and see your creative director? Or do you go in when you have four or five ideas you like, and rely on him to pick the best one out - after all, "that's his job"? Or do you go in with 'just a few thoughts', and aim to work with him on turning one of them into something good?

Well, partly you have to be guided by the attitude of your creative director.

I remember one CD, years ago, telling me "I want you to run in". By this he meant, don't show me any work on a brief until you are so excited that you can't hold yourself back from physically sprinting into my office.

That much lack of guidance is rare.

But if you are getting too many insults - and a lot of creative directors seem to specialise in the finely-honed insult - then this is a clue that you are going in too early. (We once showed something to Jeremy Craigen when I was at DDB and he said: "That is a really good ad... for McCann's Frankfurt, maybe.")

At the other end of the scale is the "bring me your wounded, bring me your lame" attitude - i.e. show me anything you've got, and let's see if we can make it work. Apparently Dave Droga tries to see all of his teams every day. His attitude is that as a creative, time is your only resource. And he doesn't want his creatives wasting any. He doesn't want them working for more than one day on a thought that he might then not like. He'd rather see all their half-thoughts than one or two finished ones.

So be guided by the attitude of your creative director. But as a general rule, I think young teams should go in with more than one idea. Young creatives often have great ideas and they don't know they're great, because they don't have the experience to recognise it. So go in early, go in often, go in with anything you've got that's coherent, draw stuff up clearly but not beautifully, and don't spend hours crafting dialogue.

After all, you don't want to spend days buffing up some precious gem only to be told by your CD that you've been polishing a turd.


Anonymous said...

That's exactly the kind of info I look for on the web but can't find so thank you for taking up the baton.

I know I have issues sorting the wheat from the chaff - I can only assume that you get better at it as you go along, so it's good to hear your perspective on it.

What's next?

Anonymous said...

if your creative director smokes then smoke. You would be surprised how much bullshit you can offload or pick up in 2 minutes downstairs

Anonymous said...

I agree with onewoman - this is just the sort of wisdom drawn from experience that make blogs like this so valuable. Nicely done.

William said...

It's about time we had some insights. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with you Scamp. In addition to being a good way to avoid wasting time on non-starters, i reckon showing your ideas early makes them more likely to get up. The more of a hand various gatekeepers feel like they have in your work, the more likely they are to champion it.

I do think there are a couple of dangers though, especially if you're a young creative:

1) Some CDs bring in young teams to provide a fresh, youthful approach. But if the CD then ends up doing a lot of craft work on that team's ideas, it can tend to undercut that goal, because the ideas get pulled more towards the CD's existing style.

2) You don't want to get a rep as a sloppy thinker who can't articulate their ideas properly.

I dunno, it's a tough call. I'm not above putting blue boats in my intial layouts, especially if they're elements that run the risk of over-explaining the concept.

Then at least i know the CD will "get" the idea, and they'll probably feel good 'cos they can help me with a bit of craft:

"You can lose the headline; i think people will get it anyway."

Willoughby said...

From a directors point of view, I know that I'm more likely to be awarded a job if I don't say 'I think it should be done like this', rather 'here's a few ways how it could be done' then argue the merrits of each.

That's not to say I never take the former approach (sometimes it is necessary), but I just know that creatives/clients/whoever are more likely to buy if they feel they can mould it, to create ownership.

Ed Mahony said...

often account planners and creative directors see things quite differently.

how about going in with a few ideas that the account planner might like as well. In other words a mixture of ideas, some that you think are more creative than relevant (and vice versa) and hopefully the best ideas that you think are both really creative and really relevant (others might think differently for all ideas).

just an idea. i'm not a creative (copywriter or art director)

- very interesting blog by the way

would you like to exchange links? (creative thinking - advertising and media)