If you have been in the business for a while, you will start to see the
same words over and over. Here are a few. Real, authentic and fresh. Or
phrases like 'out of the box thinking'. You will see or hear these words
fairly often. They relate to how the communications should feel. These
words often create the opposite of clarity.
Now, there is nothing
wrong with these words. As words. The problem with these words and many
others is they either mean nothing or they mean very different things
to different people. So, when you try to take them from nice words into
actual things you run into all sorts of problems.
Let's take one of these words as an example. Real.
We all know what it means right. But let's turn it into a film.
and conceptually, real can mean many things. Should it feel like a
documentary or real as in contemporary and what's happening today? Maybe
the gritty reality of Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. Or, should
the people in the film not feel airbrushed? Real characters speaking
like real people. Do we mean real emotionally? Or real as in based on a
true human insight. Now, that is just one word. And perhaps you can
answer all of those questions.
OK, let's ad the single phrase
'out of the box thinking'. Simple right? Real and innovative. So, show
me something that you know is true and honest and something that is new
that you have never seen before. That is a little trickier. Let's ad the
words passionate, fun but not quirky. Real, new, passionate, fun but
Five words in and we are already in deep shit. Yet,
there is a greater problem. Almost everybody involved in the process has
slightly or very different interpretations of these words. What one
person thinks is fun another person will think is very weird. We might
think we are all speaking the same language but already translation is
This is the great problem with language. It creates the
illusion of precision. We think it is a simple bridge from imagination
And in an industry that single-handedly supports the
very wealthy people that make Post-its, this is a big problem. We are
very fond of creating lists based on a whole lot of words that we
pretend are ideas. We think these words will become a thing. We think
this gives creatives direction.
I have just demonstrated with
five simple words this is not the case. What language doesn't address
are things like understanding, tonality and intention. These three words
are often the reason the process takes so long. Looking at my career
and speaking to other creatives these three words are the most
frightening of all.
We worry a lot about what we are going to do. But what often causes all the problems is how we do them.
Vague words on a page don't really solve this.
Making others see exactly what is in your head does.
And often, that, can, be a very slow and strange dance.