knowledge Opinions

Nurturing Creativity

by Stuart Black, 04 June 2014

It is not enough just to have the skills and imagination to produce impressive ideas. You also have to give them life. And inevitably, that requires significant effort. Not from just one person, but from a team of people.

In our business, many talented people walk through the door and at times, they will come up with great ideas. But for many different reasons, those ideas frequently fall over. Sometimes because of the difficulty in implementing them, sometimes because other people – internally or externally – don’t believe in them, and other times because they don’t match industry ‘guidelines’.

Whether you’re dealing with cars, alcohol, banks, or airlines, there are always restrictions on what you can say in your advertising. In the healthcare category they vary significantly between prescription and non-prescription products. To illustrate the environment the pharmaceutical companies in Australia operate in, consider the $250,000 fine imposed upon one of them last November when it was found to have breached the Medicines Australia Code. The company believed a series of emails sent on their behalf were ‘educational’. The committee judging them found they were ‘promotional’ and therefore a different set of rules applied. What some might think was a small difference in interpretation had a big impact on someone’s career. And that is the environment we are often working in. It makes many brand managers understandably risk averse.

However, being careful to stay true to the industry codes should not mean being bland or boring in your communication. And yet that is the way some in the industry apply their philosophy.

What we have learned from experience is that the best way to get a powerful idea over the line is to have as many people as possible believe in it. Any doubters, whether at conception or approval or implementation stage, have the capacity to kill creativity. Wherever possible, it is our job to turn those doubters into believers.

What happens when you come up with a powerful creative idea and both the agency team and the client are believers? You get work like the ‘I did this with Idis’ campaign by Langland which won the 2013 Grand Global. It was a campaign for ‘Managed Access Programs’ directed at healthcare professionals. With a conservative approach, this could have been dull work. But by embracing creativity, the work was not only inspiring to its target audience; it was inspiring to anyone who works in this industry.

Sometimes the key to great creative work is to keep the message simple. Clutter never aids creativity. One of the reasons the PediaSure campaign worked so well was because our client chose not to burden the communication with too much information. The result was that the idea - that kids might drink, rather than eat, what they are missing out on – was both engaging and motivating.

PediaSure campaign

It takes bravery to fully embrace those with the capacity to produce great creative work, those who bring it to life, and the risk that goes with that. Some try to fake such bravery. But in the end, you can see through them. They are simply unwilling to make the tough call and put their reputations on the line when the battle lines are drawn.

For us, it is the reason to exist. To nurture creativity. To be unafraid of walking close to the proverbial cliff-edge. And maybe… just maybe… to make a change for the better.

— Stuart Black, CEO of Ward6

Knowledge

Get the knowledge: agency, work, opinions and interviews