"Ideas are easy. It's the execution that really separates the sheep from the goats." - Sue Grafton
Narratives that don't make sense. If you have been in advertising for more than 10 minutes you will have seen this before.
over time you find these narratives have far more to do with making or
saving money than anything coming close to the truth. Look what was said five years ago about digital advertising and you will see what I mean.
Right now, there are two narratives floating around advertising that are diametrically opposed to each other.
first one goes like this: Nothing is more important than creativity. It
is our secret weapon. We need it. It is what separates us from the
The other is creative should not be left up to the
creatives. Ideas can come from anywhere. Anybody can come up with an
idea. We should be open to everybody having ideas.
Now, I would
agree that anybody can have an idea. Any creative director worth his
salt will look at the idea, not where it came from. I also understand
that a lot of these conversations come from dealing with how many puzzle
pieces there are these days. And how little time exists to make that
pretty picture on the box.
However, when I look at these
competing narratives I have some issues about the misconceptions many in
our industry have about creatives and why they are so necessary. For
me, these problems begin with two words: Creative and idea.
is not a job description, it is a vague, undefined ability. I have told
people I am a creative and they have responded by saying they are also
creative, they love to cook or are quite keen on gardening.
what you often have is the erroneous thought by many in our industry
that anybody can be a creative because the job description of being an
advertising creative is undefined. This description also erodes the
value of what we do. However, there is a far bigger problem.
second word I mentioned is the word idea. What is an idea? Seriously,
think about it for a second. For those that aren't sure I can put your
mind at rest by telling you it is far more than a couple of words on a
For many, the perception exists that having an
idea is hard. The truth is that the hard part is actually caring about
an idea. Everybody can have an idea but, selling, making and caring
about an idea that leads to potentially hundreds of executions often
over a couple of years needs a person with special qualities. That blend
of talent and dedication is very hard to find.
often described as rock stars but the truth is, really great creatives
are far more like shepherds. They are there when an idea is born. They
try to keep it safe and moving in the right direction. They try and make
sure it doesn't die. To use a comparison from the other end of the job
spectrum, I often think it feels similar to being an actor in LA. going
to auditions every day and being rejected for being too short, too
tall, too fat, too boring etc. Talent is important but so is toughness.
It's not for everyone.
The other tricky thing about ideas is that
everybody thinks their own ideas are great. This is fine if you don't
have to make one. It can just be a nice theory. Nobody gets hurt. But,
if you are actually making an idea which can often cost millions of
dollars, somebody has to be responsible for the end product. Who decides?
And to be clear, if it is a committee or involves brainstorming you are
already in deep shit. Somebody has to make a call. And not just one
decision but hundreds of tiny unglamorous decisions.
once said that a line is a dot that went for a walk. It is one of my
favourite quotes because it perfectly describes the difference between
having an idea and the endless process of making an idea.
the moment are making the mistake of thinking that having an idea is
the same as making an idea. Whether it is the disaster of an event like
the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, the infamous Pepsi ad or the hundreds
of ads that all look like each other because people have cut corners, we
need to remember in the end it is the making that matters. This is why
creatives matter, they make ideas real. They understand more than
anybody that an idea means nothing if it isn't made. It is what drives
them. It is why they push further. It is why they are different. It is
why they are valuable.
The truth is having an average idea is
pretty painless and can be done by many. On the other hand, making a
truly great idea needs a person or people that have a lot of courage,
passion and a very high pain threshold.
Despite what some may think, it's not for everyone.
Damon Stapleton is chief creative officer of DDB New Zealand.