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Creativity Squared: Underrated Creative Gems and Asking a Million Questions with Christian Beckett

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McCann New York’s creative director on the blurring lines of advertising, moving mountains with great clients and why there aren’t any facts when it comes to creative

Creativity Squared: Underrated Creative Gems and Asking a Million Questions with Christian Beckett

Christian Beckett is a Swedish, award-winning, Creative Director currently working at McCann New York, with over 16+ years of global experience in advertising. He loves to tackle difficult challenges with simple and compelling solutions. 



Person


LBB> What kind of creative person are you?

Christian> My main approach to advertising is that people don’t like advertising. But that is what makes this so fun and interesting. Our job is to convince people to like, love, buy, click, share, or do whatever product or service it is we’re selling. I want to add value to something however and whatever that is. Creativity is more important than ever now because there is so much noise and so many channels and it’s harder to draw the line where and what is advertising, so we have to find a way to make our product, brand, service stand out to the right audience is a really fun challenge.



LBB> How would you describe your personality?

Christian> I like to think I am a very passionately optimistic and funny person, who is also very determined and loyal, I will see everything through. Maybe it’s a Swedish way to deal with the cold and darkness we grew up with, and joke about everything to simply help cope with it all. Or just because I truly believe in having fun. When you have fun, you can make great work. 



LBB> How do you like to see the world?

Christian> As a huge opportunity. But very modular. And you have to break it down in order to make sense of it all. The world is a big place so you need to approach it with very big open eyes because there isn’t just one thing or one truth. Different places, people and moments are all different. So there isn’t a one-stop solution to everything. It’s very grey, in multiple layers. Metaphorically speaking of course, because it’s a very colourful place. Does that even make sense?



LBB> Do you think creativity is something that’s innate or something that you learn – why?

Christian> Both. I think you can have “it” in some way. A talent, a drive, an ambition, a hunger, because that’s where everything starts. But then you can 100% learn and work to become better. Through determination, hard work and sometimes, very late hours. This is true in most fields of work.



LBB> Would you consider yourself an introvert or extravert? 

Christian> Again, both. I listen and take in – but once I’m onboard I can talk forever. And loud. (I don’t do that intentionally though). I love to present and can speak up, present, fight for, or explain, any of my work. Which is why it’s so important to believe in what you do and your creative solution. 



LBB> How do you feel about routine?

Christian> For some reason I like to think I am a very spontaneous person but everyone who knows me says I am the most routine kind of person there is. I think both are right. I do have a very fixed system and precise things I like in a very specific manner. I know exactly what I like and what I don’t like. So as long as I am allowed to operate and function within my own bubble of routines, I can be as spontaneous as you want. Within those frames. 



LBB> When it comes to creative ‘stuff’ that you enjoy, do you like things that are similar to the work you do or do you enjoy exploring? 

Christian> I am a massive movie fan. Can spend hours just watching movies but also reading about it, behind the scenes, interviews and explanations and theories but also simply just watch trailers. Big trailer guy. But besides that, I don’t really do any other “creative” stuff outside of work. I like the break. I used to write, paint and draw a lot, but I don’t have as much time for it now. Running, a bit of unnecessary shopping, spending time with friends, going to dinners, and my family takes enough time as it is.



Product 


LBB> How do you judge the creativity of a piece of work?

Christian> Is it good? Does it make sense? In its category, for its audience? I think it’s pretty simple to judge good work. It’s either good or it’s not. And since there aren’t any facts – only we can be the judge of that.



LBB> How do you assess whether an idea or a piece of work is truly creative? What are your criteria?

Christian> It has to make sense. For the audience that they are reaching and the product and category they are in. And then see what kind of problem it solves in a creative way. 



LBB> Has that criteria shifted or evolved over the years?

Christian> Definitely. I think it used to be simple. Best TV spot won. Or print ad. But now we have to decide if a logo redesign or TikTok video that doesn’t even mention the product or Internet Meme “killed it”. And it can be hard, but I love that we keep pushing the boundaries and evolving.



LBB> What creative campaigns are your proudest of and why?

Christian> My first gig in the US was for Puma Football and the world’s first wordless tagline (Love=Football) for the World Cup in South Africa was a pretty unique and great opportunity. We had a small, yet brilliant and fearless team and we did some really nice work. I l also loved working on the original Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World”, it really is a genius idea. And I am also proud of the work we’re doing now for the USPS, MGM, HomeGoods and hopefully coming up – 3M.



LBB> Overall, what do you make of the industry’s creative output right now? What’s exciting you about it or frustrating you?

Christian> I think it’s strong. But also it’s a very important time right now, a lot of things are happening, from crypto to metaverse to one million new ways, portals and channels to communicate through. Creativity will be key in tackling all of it. 



Process


LBB> Tell us about how you like to make creative work

Christian> Work-wise, I ask a million questions, I assess it, reassess it, and then come back determined, eager and hungry. Ready to solve any challenge or approach any opportunity with the best solution there is. Whatever that is, in whatever shape, form, length, medium, or way possible. I like to add a unique perspective and not just take it as is. I like to challenge everything, twist and turn it and try new angles and find ways that make you excited. Our gut feeling is probably our best tool. We don’t have any factual answers in this industry. No one actually knows what is right.



LBB> Are there any tools or platforms (analogue or digital) that you find particularly helpful for gathering or iterating ideas?

Christian> Good ol’ classic notebook. Other than that, I take all my notes in Google Slides. Not the best but the easiest and most convenient.



LBB> Are there any techniques that you’ve tried that just didn’t gel with you, why?

Christian> I’m not really a ‘technique’ guy. I do some research, scroll the internet, Twitter is a great place to find stuff on.



LBB> Do you like to start every project as a blank sheet or are you constantly collecting possible inspiration or references for future projects?

Christian> It depends on how familiar I am with the product or brand category, sometimes it’s nice to dive in not knowing anything and just come up with a good, fun, unexpected solution, but most of the time I like to ask tons of questions to know more.



LBB> Do you prefer to work collaboratively or alone?

Christian> I love working in a team and let everyone speak up and have their say or point of view. Great creative can come from anywhere at any time. Account, strategy, planner, producer and obviously client too. With a great client, you can now just move mountains you have the power to change the world. It’s a cliché but it’s true and I believe in it.



LBB> When it comes to the hard bits of a project, when you’re stumped, do you have a process or something you like to do for getting past those tricky bits? 

Christian> Just work. Get down and do it. Or ask: “What would Nike or Apple do?” Basically approach it from a brand that you admire and constantly do good work. Just to get out of a dead space. Or just go for a coffee. And not think about it for a few minutes. Not working and clearing the head are very underrated gems to get thinking again.



LBB> When you’re working with a group, where you might be helping someone else with their process, how do you know when a piece of work is ‘done’?

Christian> Do you ever, I mean really know? The best way to know is either deadlines, a gut-feeling or clear directions. The thing is, sometimes I feel like we can all finesse and perfect everything we’re doing until forever and the end of time. But are we ever really 100% satisfied? I am not. So thank god for deadlines.



Press


LBB> What external factors have shaped you and what can make or break a creative project?

Christian> Coming from Sweden, working in Amsterdam, Shanghai and now New York is a very good mix and combination of roots and experience to bring with you to any project. It gives you very unique and multicultural insights and perspectives. 



LBB> Where did you grow up and what early experiences do you think sowed the seeds of your creativity?

Christian> Born and raised in Sweden, was a bike messenger (get paid for working out, great) but had no idea what to do until I, by accident, took a copywriting class at Berghs School of Communication and my whole world just made sense. This. Was. It. The rest is a wonderful history.



LBB> How did you hone your craft?

Christian> Work. Hard work, Fun work. Listen and work with different, smart people. Surround yourself with the smartest and best people there is and don’t be afraid to take advice. 



LBB> When it comes to your own creativity, what external factors can really help you fly, and what do you find frustrates it?

Christian> I definitely thrive on pressure, deadlines and high expectations. I like what I do and feel very confident I can deliver for any client and any brand so no pressure is bigger than the one I am putting on myself. A quick turnaround can sometimes also mean less time overthinking it and a quicker, better and most importantly, simpler solution. 



LBB> What advice would you give to clients looking to get the best out of the teams and agencies they worked with?

Christian> Talk to them like people, not just employees. Especially now in a still-remote world. Just because we don’t hang every day doesn’t mean people want to feel less like people. Care about them, they care about the work they do so it feels like the very least we can do.



LBB> How do you think agencies can best facilitate creativity in terms of culture and design?

Christian> Keep doing what we’re doing. Creativity is never a finished product. It’s a constantly evolving sponge. Always sucking up inspiration from all around all the time. Adapt and change as quickly as culture changes and the world evolves and you’ll be fine. Just don’t stay stuck too long in old habits, models and routines.



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McCann North America, Thu, 17 Feb 2022 16:37:00 GMT