Has the creative industry lost its bottle?

Published:  August 12, 2010
Has the creative industry lost its bottle?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot recently. As a creative industry we are now blessed with more ways to express our ideas, more ways to satisfy our clients and more ways to entertain and engage consumers than ever before – but through all this, do you ever get the feeling we aren’t making the most of the opportunity?

Some of the problem lies in competition. With the proliferation of channels in the last fifteen years, there has been a marked increase in agencies competing for the same projects – “A hundred wiseguys all chasing the same dollar” as Al Pacino said in Donnie Brasco.

Has this pressure to win pushed us towards pitching to win, over pitching what we feel in our hearts is right? A case of the old ‘tell them what they want to hear’?

One of my favourite stories is of the Allen, Brady & Marsh pitch to British Rail in the 1980’s, who at the time were famous for poor service, dated trains and lateness. For the arrival of the BR execs, ABM had their foyer strewn with rubbish, coffee stained tables and overflowing ashtrays – a vision completed with an actress on reception, sitting un-interested, filing her nails. After keeping the BR executives waiting for so long they were just about to storm out, out came the pitch team “that’s how the public see BR, now lets see what we can do to put it right” they said. Needless to say they won the pitch.

What I love about the story, above the shear audacity of it, is that it’s such a great example of a creative team taking a holistic view of a problem – not just a response to an advertising brief, no papering over cracks, no thinking ‘that’s someone elses problem’ and no elephants in the room – just the truth and having the bravery to think big.

My question then is this; could we see this happening today, or has the industry become so obsessed with not losing, that the overall loser is creativity itself?

The story of ABM and British Rail is thirty years old – just imagine how big you can think with all the touch-points in the modern brand experience, and where that might take your creativity.

Maybe it’s time we re-captured some creative bravery and started breaking out from any ‘boxes’ we are put in, looking at problems in broader, more contextual ways rather than treating briefs as gospel to make a real difference to our clients’ businesses.


Image Copyright ndtv

4 Responses

  1. As a freelancer, I think the intense competition can sometimes effect the ability to freely express creativity through forcing designers to be “jack of all trades” for the least amount of money and time spent as possible.

    This pressure to perform pushes creatives away from experimentation and towards what they know best.

  2. Faru

    I think that this article is more about the “right” solution than simply experimenting. It’s less about the pressure to perform and more about the pressure to conform in a way.

    In your gut if you know that the correct response to a brief is Chocolate but you’ll more likely win the job with Vanilla. What do you do? I’d like to think that all us would be ballsy enough to put it out there. Even scare the client a little. But for a lot of us, I doubt it. The bottom line is to close for comfort.

    The reason the client is there in the first place is because they don’t know what step to take and they need the right creative strategy. I’d love to have seen the faces of Volkswagen when DDB put “Think Small” forward.

  3. I love that story! And the ones who really are the heroes in it are the BR executives – for having the proverbial balls to be open minded and willing to take critique while understanding the full picture.

    I’ve just come out of several pitches where we put our ‘sensitives’ on the line, by presenting what we thought was the very best approach for fixing what’s not worked in the past. And we’ve lost because your creative was by far the strongest and it took us where we’ve never thought to be, but we’re more confident with the traditional tried and tested approach of the other firm.’

    I’ve got to concede – next pitch we’ll go in NOT BELIEVING our approach will make a difference, but KNOWING it’s what they’ll want to hear.

  4. Faru

    It is classic isn’t it?

    Tried and true methods had to have started somewhere. So once upon a time those tried and true methods were new and scary. Someone had the balls to do it. It worked, then the scared masses followed.

    It happens time and time again. The only reason that they are trends is because they are distinctly different from each other.

    Different = scary ergo new trends = scary.

    If people like us didn’t move clients into new (scary) directions, companies would still advertise and communicate to their clients with a black and white, one page ad in a newspaper, picturing a woman smiling holding the latest Brillo detergent. The copy would read something like, “Brillo makes my husband’s shirts so white, that he loves me more than the day we met.”

    Thank God for new ideas.

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