I mean who wouldn’t want to sit in a room laden with treats talking about whether or not "we could do something with Stranger Things", "we could do something with VR" or "we could do something Lulu Lemon-related"?
Random nonsense barked at a whiteboard for the intern to try and catch with a blue marker pen.
No real creative brief, no business objectives (for the client or the agency for that matter), no facilitation, no structure and absolutely no process, we sit there yammering away in the vague hope that we might hit upon something the MailOnline might write about. And why the hell not? Especially if it works.
I have done this. In fact, in the past, I have actively encouraged it. I have even introduced this nonsense to other big agencies (sorry about that).
Well, not any more. No siree. I am now the fun police and if it ain’t serious, I ain’t interested.
The only thing that the fun approach to ideation does is keep PR agencies in the cute, fluffy, light and… urgh… fun corner of creative solutions. If the definition of creativity is the ability to solve problems in a new way, you hire engineers, creative agencies and management consultancies to solve serious problems. So you hire PR agencies to come up with fluffy, light and fun solutions?
That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. In a world where reputation and image are synonymous with global political decision-making, the profitability of businesses and the consumption of pretty much any trend, you don’t need a fluffy, light and fun approach to problem-solving. You need careful, considered, often grueling work with proper testing and proper insight.
Regardless of whether you’re communicating an enormous IPO or promoting a new brand of fidget-spinner, if you want to present the appropriate image or preserve the appropriate reputation, you better work hard for it.
I am in no way advocating unnecessarily adverse conditions – kindness, comfort and respect can all enhance the process. Jumping around like a craycray clown – less so.
Sure, have a cupcake-fueled creative session if you genuinely think it’s going to help solve your client’s problem in a new way. But if you have doubts that it will, maybe consider combining a few – if not all – of these four thoughts:
- Come up with the idea on your own. Dedicate every free minute of every day, reading up on the topic, thinking about the problem and trying to crack the issue as if it were your own personal problem, your own personal money and your own success riding on it. Two of the three are probably true.
- Host a long roll of well-facilitated creative sessions and accept that after 45 minutes you won’t crack it. And in fact, if you do think you’ve cracked it in that short time, you probably haven’t.
- Do something simple. Not every idea will win at Cannes. Nor should it. Doing something well is far more important than doing something bold for the sake of it.
- Agree a "Decider" early on. Agree that colleague or those colleagues early on and your review process up front so that bad ideas don’t sneak in through desperation.
This doesn’t mean the ideas can’t be fun. Or you might not have some fun developing them but there is no logical reason – neuroscientific or otherwise – that the creative process should be fun.
Why am I sharing this? Two ways of looking at it really. Perhaps I’m just some nobody who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In that case, it’s simply sabotage. Alternatively, harder working creative means better competition, better ideas and a better role for PR in the world. Our industry has the ability to transform the planet.
Now doesn’t that sound fun?
Kev O’Sullivan is Executive Creative Director at FleishmanHillard Fishburn