Like many creative people, I got into this because it satisfies a need for me. I like to think things up.
Being fairly short-term oriented, I consider it a good day if I’ve written a good headline, finished a radio spot I like or a client buys off on a campaign we’ve presented. At the same time, I know there’s more to it than that. Creativity for its own sake is art, not advertising. And this is a business.
That’s why I have such an issue with ads that win in awards shows when they were done just for the purpose of entering awards shows. The old “we’ll do it for free if we get total creative freedom” kind of thing. Everybody I know can cite work that fits into that category. Of course, in virtually every case, it really is great work and deserves some sort of recognition.
But it's not always effective work for the client and it's just not advertising. Not really. Not with a client who’s getting the work for cheap or free and isn’t going to object to much.
OK, having said that, I wish more clients would demand that kind of creativity. The kind that wins in awards shows. The kind that requires people to pay attention. The kind that makes them talk and refuses to be easily forgotten. But is also the kind that actually helps them sell. Which creativity does. Because, ultimately, that's the point of the exercise.
When you think about it, compelling, creative advertising is a lot less expensive for a client in the overall than mediocre advertising. Mainly – if you want to put dollars and cents to it – because mediocre advertising works best (if at all) only with a such a gigundo media budget behind it that people remember the message because of the sheer number of times they have seen it. Not because of what it says to them. I believe you want people to be aware of your message because they were drawn to it somehow – not because they couldn’t escape it.
And I’m sorry, but I’ve usually found that people who try to sell the “it’s not creative unless it’s sells” line are people who don’t do very creative work. It may, in fact, not "be" creative unless it sells, but creativity can sell a hell of a lot harder than the alternative.
I think spending more up front on stronger creative and better production can save a client a lot of money in the long run because they don’t have to throw as much at the media budget. Allow for good photography, illustration, voice talent or a director. And don’t assume the agency makes money on production.
Or just demand more creativity. And be open to ideas that might scare you a bit.
I know this Apple “1984” commercial has taken on legendary status, and it may not be the very best example that ever did be. But it did only run once.
Creativity is an insanely practical business tool. If you use it.