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Creativity and ‘the work’

I feel I’ve earned my stripes to say this now but any agency that solely reverts to the position of: “marketing is about creativity and the work” is slightly disillusioned.

The statement is pure mythology passed on from ECD to ECD, in order to give every art director and copywriter in the world a riposte to anyone that should dare challenge a precious idea.

I have honestly heard these statements regularly throughout my entire career.

“Don’t worry about the strategy and the insights. It’s the creativity and the work that clients care about” 

“Clients just want to be famous. It’s only about the creativity and the work” 

“Clients don’t value ‘suits’ or planners. It’s the creativity and the work they pay for” 

“What do you mean we have to include the product? Don’t they understand that creativity is proven to work (in the top 1 percentile of campaigns ever measured)” 

“Well we can’t tell them if the work will work. Creativity is an art not a science” 

I don’t believe it’s anything disingenuous, people have just heard it so many times they actually believe it.

In my experience this is the most unhelpful contribution to moving the industry forward you could think of. It’s also hugely hypocritical.

Imagine if you got a brief from an automotive brand that said we want to communicate the importance of engineering and the wheels. You’d think they were absolute nutcases.

Important yes – but kind of a given.

Then imagine if every single automotive brand in the world said exactly the same thing.

Mazda – It’s the engineering and the wheels. Zoom Zoom. 

Alpha Romeo – It’s not a car, it’s the engineering and the wheels 

BMW – The ultimate engineering machine with wheels 

Kia – The power of engineering and wheels to surprise

Skoda – Simply clever engineering and wheels

If you think I’m being factious I’m really not. Go to the website of all agencies. Pretty much all them describe themselves as being creative and valuing the work.

Accounting is known for being creative and the work makes money

My 3 year old niece is creative and I value her work.

A footballer is creative and the supporters value the work.

Whoever came up with keyboard cat is creative and millions value the work.

The inventor of the paper clip was creative. As was the person who got fed up with picking poo out of his bum with his fingernail and invented the brilliant piece of work known as bog roll. I for one value these people’s work.

Creativity is expected and present in all walks of life and industries – it’s required to solve all kinds of problems. The advertising world doesn’t own it. In fact I’m not convinced we are even the best at it in the whole grand scheme of what’s possible today.

And for an industry that gets paid to give brands advice on how to be different, we aren’t very good at practicing what we preach are we.

It’s the equivalent of communicating an industry standard product feature, or even worse a competitive positioning based on saying my Dad is harder than your Dad.

The way we talk about creativity is lazy and I’m not convinced that’s what clients really buy.

So let’s stop justifying our existence with broad descriptions and communicate how we do things differently and why we do it. You know, like we tell our clients to.

Call me a mad man, but if I were a client faced with 20 agencies that all talked about creativity and the work, with similar case studies and similar awards I’d just go for the cheapest.

Oh that’s right they do.

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