Monday, 10 June 2013

Creativity and beating the creative block.
John Cleese was once asked in an interview, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
His delightful answer was; “I get all my ideas from Mrs Smigings, 23 Eden Walk, Blackburn, but she isn’t saying were she gets her ideas from”.
Well if we could all turn on creativity like a tap, or if like Cleese you have Mrs Smigging phone number, we wouldn’t have creative blocks, or more importantly creating gobsmacking great ideas wouldn’t have value, be a talent or anything particularly special, unless you were Mrs S.
But creativity is worked hard for; allegedly the chemical breakdown of it is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration, so when a great idea turns up much whooping and celebration usually greets it.
Of course we are talking here about marketing, design and advertising creative ideas which in one way are very different than for poor John coming up with (another) superb original comedy idea.

We work from a brief.
Poor comics work from a blank sheet of paper (which is probably why many need serious therapy and are miserable off stage).
Still, sticking with Johnny boy for a moment, I checked out what else he had to say about his creative process, to see if there was anything to learn from, he listed;
Space  - You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.
Time - It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.
More time  - Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.
Confidence  - Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.
Humor - The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.
So for us marketing creative types, we might be armed with a brief, but our deadlines are usually tighter than a fat lady wearing a size 8 waspie, but most of us don’t have the luxury do we?
A couple of years back I went to a very entertaining lecture at JWT Knightsbridge with Graham Fink. His presentation eventually led up to a vox pops of his agency saying where creativity came from which coincidently mirrored Graham’s thoughts that true creativity, came to you and you had to put yourself in a place for it to.
For me I think that is only partly true.  My own experience of creating work, only a couple of truly great ideas have popped up from ‘somewhere out there’. I once woke up and I had an entire storyboard for a commercial in my head,  (it got made). This only happened to McCartney once. He woke up with a tune that went with “scrabbled eggs” complete in his head, it became “Yesterday”, the other 400 plus great songs (and quite a few stinkers) where all sweated out.
So my recipe for avoiding a creative block is firstly to read the brief and really understand it.
Then think of a person that you are communicating to, just one person maybe someone you know. Now what would you say to them, think what would push their buttons.
Great ideas are almost always simple and when you look at many great ones they almost always get the reaction, that many seem obvious in retrospective.
My aim as a creative is to say what everyone thinks and say it in a way that no one has thought of.
Fear is your enemy; it will kill ideas, so relax and work on what to say not how to say it. Think more like a detective solving a problem. Information sells, so tell people something that they don’t know, communicate it to them on their level and you are half way there.
Oh and remember K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid).
But what about the great Graham Fink and what he says?
Graham is a genius in the advertising world and has created some great work.
My take is that if you swot and work hard on the brief, then relax, go off shoot pool, go clubbing, club something, whatever you do to relax, then like trying to remember the name of that number 8 that played for Blackburn Rovers that dived all over the pitch – it will all of a sudden pop in your head, (and its not Mrs Smigging).

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Before I get this blog going properly here's an article I wrote for Marketing magazine in February.
They approached me to comment on Dell's brand, or lack of...

I worked on and was responsible with my writer and account team for growing the Dell account at CDP Travis Sully from a £2 million spend to a £4 million spend between 1998 and 2002.
In that time Dell in the UK went from number the 4 PC manufacturer to number 2. However, although the sales of Dell during that time where excellent Dell themselves were not interested in building their brand, despite many efforts on our part and various US agencies.

Dell’s belief was simple, cut out the middle man. They could have been selling soap powder, which is fine as long as you beat everyone else for power/speed or value.
Since the time I worked on the account Dell has faced increasingly steep competition, from cheaper Asian PC manufacturers such as China's Lenovo, and from innovative rivals such as Apple. They are now competing in a market place where tablets and smart phones are taking over from desktops and laptops.

Michael Dell is a brilliant business man, but if he gets control of his company back now there’s a big challenge facing him.
I feel there was a missed opportunity to build the brand values up over the years, we only have to look at  Apple to see the value of a super brand.

Dell now have a blank sheet to work from. No brand loyalty and an aging product portfolio means they need to re-invent themselves, (Hepworth's morphing into Next?)
and create a brand that means something to today’s generation.

A tough ask, but a challenge we would enjoy.