Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime

How Constraints Can Fuel Creativity

Advertising Agency
Los Angeles, USA
INFLUENCER: 72andSunny's Michelle McKinney on why the agency built a Partnerships and Legal team

When you work in the creative industry, legal can feel like a dirty word. Your Business Affairs team is likely accused of being the “no” people, the “dream killers”, or the “legal police” who kill the best ideas. 

But how did we get here? When you look around the world, in and outside our industry, you can see how constraints fuel creativity. 

Change Your Perspective

Perspective is the difference between compromising at good ideas and thinking strategically to evolve them into great ideas. When you encounter a barrier to a project or a piece of work for a brand, you have to think differently to pull it off. As an industry, we’re often challenged with limited budgets and grand ideas, a combination that doesn’t always work out, but every department should strive to find ways to execute ideas with creative workarounds.  

One way we’ve done this is by modernising our Business Affairs department to the Partnerships and Legal team, at 72andSunny globally. We redefined job descriptions, redesigned our process, and created a complementary Partnerships Development role, hiring Rashi Talati, who helps curate strategic partnership opportunities across our offices.

It wasn’t a veiled attempt to rename an existing function, but a conscious reorientation that allows us to approach all business interactions with a partnership posture versus a transactional one. Why? Because collaboration wins. The most successful and creative partnerships are born from ideas at the intersection of both partners' needs - each helping the other to accomplish what they either couldn’t do to the same extent, or couldn’t do at all, on their own. One example was collaborating with our brand partner, Samsung, and Jay Z to release his highly-anticipated album 'Magna Carta Holy Grail' back in 2013. This partnership moved beyond a simple transaction and used a million Samsung Galaxy devices as a new distribution channel, ultimately rewriting the rules for album releases.   

Ditch “No, Because” for “Yes, And Here’s How” 

I’ll admit that people in my speciality can often approach a project with a limited, transactional lens, a “no, because”, instead of exploring the possibilities with a “yes, and here’s how...” - usually for important reasons, including protecting the company, your idea and you. While well-intentioned, these two little words can easily be seen as a barrier instead of a pathway to impactful partnerships, meaningful relationships, creativity, and in the end, effective and authentic work. In your next meeting, try replacing your “no, because” with a “yes, and here’s how...” When we approached Maya Rudolph to work with us and Seventh Generation, we knew she was a great fit because she was a brand advocate, truly caring about product labelling transparency. Being authentically connected to the cause and a part of our creative process, she courageously engaged with our team on set, improvising a jingle about Seventh Generation’s feminine products, a short bit she called a vagina jingle - a “vajingle”. Most industry counterparts would’ve shied away from pushing to get the “vajingle” out in the world because of its provocative nature, but we saw the value immediately and dove in to find out how we could get creative, successfully getting it on TV and online.  

Encourage Creativity Within Every Department 

When you embrace constraints, and respect every department as a creative department, you create something that exceeds the potential of any idea that came out of one person. Freedom in the early creative stages is key, but the real-life constraints can help everyone become better by exercising creative problem-solving. Constraints may come in many forms, as tight budgets, legal guidelines, platform limitations, scheduling difficulties, or conflict of interests, but when you accept and change your perspective on rules, you have the ability to make work that’s equally strategic as it is creative.