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AdLand > Creative Department > Creative ProcessHard & Fast RulesTo Live ByOne of the many funny things about advertising is thateveryone seems to think their way of doing things is thebest. So they come up with rules, many of which I’ve notedare contradictory.So with that thought in mind, I’ve laid out some of my ownhard and fast rules for approaching the creative process…
Don’t be too critical of your work. If you do, you may never getanything done.Taken to the extreme, high standards can cause writer’s block.So just start writing. Never mind that it’s absolute drivel.The point is: you’re working on it. Once you get past the junkideas you’ll find the real gems.Lower your standards.
Elevate your standards.Don’t ever be easily pleased with your work.In the hard light of day, it may well turn out to be ghastly.But after you’re up and running, you’ll start to have a good pile ofideas. Keep ‘em all.Push those forward and you may have something. I call it: “The ideabefore the idea”.
This had the potential to be a great ad. It’s just that the headline iskilling it. And the layout.
Own your work.You’re passionate about your work, but you also have to sell itthrough to your CD, account servicing, the marketing guys andwhoever else has a voice.So present it internally and explain it with a good story peoplecan remember.
Don’t love your words or ideas – they don’t love you.Detach yourself from your work and look at it with fresh eyes.Don’t own your work.Ever wanted to be Creative Director? You are, of your own work.Great that you wonder what your CD would say about yourlines, but so much the better if you can look at them first andknow what he’d say, then amend them until he has nothing tosay except “well-done” or “ok good, send it out”.
Unnamed digital art director fell asleep with the mouse still in his hand.
Never stop writing.Never stop writing. Never stop writing.There was one time I was teamed up with another writer (whoincidentally was also named Alex – Alex Dobrokronov) as acopy/copy team in the StarHub unit of Batey.Naturally, we did what any copy-copy team would do: we startedwriting headlines. So I said “let’s each do 20 headlines and seewhat we have”. The other Alex replied: “Why does it have to be 20?”The difference between a junior and a senior writer is when theystop writing. (One stops much sooner than the other.)Extend, extend, extend. Once you get the ATL campaign and the TVCs,go on to brochures, digital, social, mobile media, OOH, guerrilla,ambient, events, stunts, SMS, and beyond.
Naturally, not everyone will be happy with your work. Which usuallymeans you’re doing something right.
Quit.Yes, QUIT.Quit while you’re ahead.Once you’ve beat your horse till it’s dead, forget it.Get lost. Go play some pool. Chat up the new receptionist.Or just get out of the office for a long lunch with your art director.Free your mind, but keep you pen and pad with you. Suddenly, whenyou’re least expecting it, a new idea will come.Taking the pressure off of your shoulders is the most liberating feelingyou can have, and this is where the real work begins.
Never trash anything.The purpose of your weak ideas is to help you evolve past themand unlock the lateral thoughts.They’re also a record of where you’ve been, which means youcan always come back to them and maybe see something newon a rainy Monday morning.Never kill off anything.
Throw it all awaywithout a second thought.Kill it all off. Start fresh. The Empty Box is a liberating place to live in.
And now, a short commercial break... ✩✩✩✩✩ THE EMPTY BOX is a blog about all the late nights, insanity (and occasional sparks of brilliance ) that make AdLand the most fun you can have with your clothes on. ✩✩✩✩✩ alexanderpatterson.tumblr.com
Always, alwaysfollow the brief.The bloody brief is there for a reason. The first reason is to giveyou a job to work on, so be thankful for that.The second reason it’s there is because the client or agency has aproblem they need to address. Whether the brief is horrible or notdoesn’t matter. You have to get to the bottom of the fundamentalgoals of the job.A lot of times the answer to that won’t be in the brief, but the suitknows the answer. So figure it out, because when you do you canthen respond with work that never occurred to them.I’ve noticed that ironically, the answer is sometimes so obviousa solution that no one even saw it… or maybe they simply didn’task the right questions.
Forget the brief.Answer the brief; then forget it. I worked on a pitch once where therewere three creative teams.We all started from the same place. The job called for local insights inrelation to a local beer brand (okay, it was Tiger), and two of theteams were ‘local’.The third team was foreign, so they just said, ‘well, we don’t knowanything about Singapore, so forget this brief’ and completelyignored the whole job requirements. But their work was good and theCDs didn’t hold it against them – although you can be sure we did.
Stick to your guns.If you’ve done your research, explored all the paths you couldrealistically examine, and done a bit more after that, then stickto your position.You know what you’ve created, and more importantly, whyyou’ve done it.You’re probably the only one who has been through thiscreative process, so defend your work.An ex-Ogilvy CD who’s frequently at Gem on Club Street toldme: “Present your work like you’re standing naked out inthe middle of the street.” You have to believe in it.
Compormise isn’t theend of the world.In about 2000, I worked with Anthony Redman at Batey Ads.He said: “Compromise is a big fat stinking pile of shit”, orsomething very close to that, and I wouldn’t ever disagree with him.But sometimes it’s just easier to let the small jobs go, and it’s okayto amend things slightly, if it doesn’t detract from the idea, to getthe job through. There’s no need to fight account servicing on everyminute detail.Get it done. Have a beer. Go home.
You HAVE tofollow one rule.The only rule is… see previous rule.
The LAST PAGE... it was long, but hopefully it had some depth. Now it’s your turn. 1. Share & comment on this. 2. Visit The Empty Box. alexanderpatterson.tumblr.comAlexander loves to follow all the rules, especially when they suit him.