Category Archives: Creativity
Linda Jukic is Moon‘s incredibly talented Executive Creative Director. She was one of six speakers invited to honestly address the joys and challenges of making your creative ideas a reality at the recent Sex, Drugs and Helvetica design conference. These are the golden rules that underpin her work at Moon.
One of the most exciting parts of an idea is exactly where it can go and what it could truly be. Don’t be afraid to explore and share ideas beyond the original scope of work (just as long as you’ve nailed what they originally asked for). There’s a chance they may buy it and do it.
Make it real.
Whether it be an awesome render or a physical to scale mock-up, make your creative tangible for the client. The senses are exceptionally powerful, the ability to really ‘see, feel or hear’ creative gets clients going. Use it to your advantage.
Focus on the detail.
Eames said; “The details are not the details, they make the design”. Enough said.
Believe in it.
Believe in your creative idea and vision. Never lose faith in the idea or all the things that need to happen to make it happen, just the way you believe it should. As soon as you have any doubts, your team will pick up on them as will your clients and suppliers. And doubt can be just as challenging (and tricky) to manage as tight timings and small budgets and who needs another creative hurdle?
Work your butt off!
Belief is only half the equation. Effort is the rest.
Always be reasonable and fair, never rude or demanding. When projects are tight in timings and budget, your standards high and your creative vision clear, take the journey with a smile and with gratitude. It’s rewarding to see what is possible and exactly what and where you can get to if you treat people nicely.
Dreams can come true.
Most often design work involves compromise. So much happens between where you start and where you end up that it doesn’t feel like the same piece of work. This was one of those delightful jobs where what presented as our original creative concept and intent was pretty much what exists within the world today (with lots of crafting and detailing in between). It does happen.
Today’s guest post is by Sven Baker, Group CEO Designworks.
I might as well concede defeat before I start. I’m sorry. I HAVE NO BIG NEW IDEA. No profound insight that will shake the foundations of conventional wisdom.
A week ago I did have an idea, and at the time I thought a bloody good one! It was an idea centred on the transformative role design can play in business. Up until a week ago I was convinced of the power of Design Thinking to help transform business performance. I was going to be generous with our IP – I was going to share with you our Transformation process, peppered with illuminating case studies.
Such as how we’re working with New Zealand Post to revolutionise the experience of sending at retail from confusion to clarity. A new experience we co-created with customers.
How for Air New Zealand we’ve helped bust the drudgery of queuing in airports with a world first express check-in experience. And then went on to transform the nightmare of cattle class into the joy of ‘Cuddle Class.’
And finally shifting Telecom retail from selling handsets the old fashion way to selling bandwidth the new ‘smart way’ though engaging learning environments designed around the user’s world.
All of which aimed to demonstrate simply that ‘Design is a good idea’ – that as our name suggests, DESIGN WORKS.
But it appears it isn’t so. A week ago disaster struck. I was checking my email and I clicked on Fast Company’s website link and there it was… My heart sunk. To my horror! A blog post by design commentator Bruce Nussbaum. The headline read: ”Design thinking is a failed experiment. So what’s next?”
The last ten years of my life flashed by in an instant. All my professional endeavours have been for nothing. Design Thinking it appears was making way for a new ‘Conceptual Framework:’ CQ – Creative Intelligence. It appears I’ve been part of a FAILED experiment.
Seems like everyone talks about storytelling in advertising. Agencies talk about it. Clients talk about it. It’s the buzzword that makes all of us sound like we know what we’re doing.
Stories have become a focus for marketers because when it comes to communicating, stories are the most powerful medium there is. They let us explain things, they let us feel things, and they have been the main currency of communication between humans since time began.
But as fun as it is to talk about stories, you may occasionally find yourself actually having to tell one. To your boss in a meeting. To a client in a presentation. Or to a consumer through a campaign. Whatever the context of your story, it’s worth asking yourself: how do I know if I’m telling a good one?
To examine this question, I’d like to begin by talking about screenwriting.
One tendency for aspiring screenwriters (confession: I’m one) is to pack every scene they write with as much information as possible to ensure the audience understands exactly what’s going on. They (er… we) make sure the audience is crystal clear on things like how the characters got there, who’s motivated by what, the reason this girl is angry, the reason that guy is late, where they’re going next, how they’re going to get there etc etc and so on and so on.
And I can tell you, this approach makes for scenes that are incredibly clear. And incredibly long. And, usually, incredibly boring. Believe me. My list of Google Docs is a cloud-based testament to this painful insight.
But when listening to an interview with the legendary screenwriter David Mamet (he wrote this), I was interested to hear his view that the key to writing a great scene is to arrive late and leave early.
Taking his advice literally, I took one of my ten page scenes and deleted the first three pages and the last three pages. The result wasn’t perfect, but I found it surprisingly coherent and even more surprisingly… engaging.
To illustrate why, I want you to imagine you are sitting (bear with me) in a foodcourt. And let’s say you overhear two people talking. Now, even if you know nothing about these people, I’m pretty confident that just by listening to them, you could actually work out quite a bit about what they’re discussing. You could probably even determine some of the dynamics of their relationship.
No matter who you are, I’m pretty confident you could do that, because “working stuff out” is more or less what we all do, all the time. In life, there is no narrator. We are always trying to work out what’s going on, and all we have is the action right in front of us. We never have the full story. We are always arriving late and leaving early, but somehow, we work it out.
A few years ago, when some super-tanned JWT guy in linen pants on stage at Cannes (yeah, I went) said the secret to engagement in advertising is to tell incomplete stories, I think this is what he was getting at. You don’t have to tell your audience everything, you don’t have to spell every little thing out for them. Instead, you can tell them a story that’s a bit more like life. You can drop them right in the middle of it and let them work out for themselves what’s going on.
Unless you think your audience isn’t smart enough.
How tempting it is to dumb things down, to treat your audience like the lowest common denominator and then see them continually stoop to meet your expectations.
Whether you’re an agency person, a client person, or just a struggling, undiscovered genius of a screenwriter toiling away in your mother’s downstairs rumpus room, I’m challenging you (and myself) to treat your audience with respect. Assume they are at least as intelligent as you are. Tell them a story that makes them think, that prompts them to join the dots in their head and work something out for themselves.
They may arrive late, they may leave early, but there’s also a pretty good chance they’ll come back.
Creative Director Mike Barry (@Mike_Barry) leads the white agency’s team of creatives solving problems for clients like Lion, Lexus, Coca-Cola and The Commonwealth Bank. This post first appeared on white’s excellent blog. If you like this, you might like: Why brands shouldn’t be storytellers.
Today’s guest post is by Tanya Jones, the MD of Lawrence Creative Strategy.
“One of the great enemies of creativity is getting too comfortable in your thinking,” stated guest speaker Andrew Denton to a crowd of over 200 senior leaders from the STW Group’s 75+ companies who came together for the annual leadership dinner and Dashboard Awards last week.
Andrew Denton is widely recognised as one of Australian television’s genuine creative forces, both behind and in front of the camera. Introducing him, STW Group’s Executive Creative Director and CEO of Lawrence Creative Strategy Neil Lawrence described Denton as “a man of boundless creativity with a deep sense of personal integrity and who, throughout his highly successful career, has proved that intelligent entertainment is not an oxymoron.”
Denton gripped his audience for every second of his 30-minute speech with the title “When in doubt, change the routine”.
Denton admitted he was “a little intimidated” at the “challenge of talking to Australia’s most-credentialed marketing and advertising group about creativity – especially after having spent the last 7 years looking at the advertising industry through Gruen eyes.” His fears, however, were misplaced as the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Foundation Hall roared with laughter as Denton recounted some tales from his career and imparted creative words of wisdom.
Denton took us back to the place where he got his start as a performer: Theatresports.
If you’ve ever been, you’ll know that Theatresports has 10 Commandments, the second one of which I want to talk to you about tonight. I have followed this commandment faithfully all my career and doing so has brought me more joy, and more creative success, than anything else I can think of.
The Commandment is this. When in doubt, change the routine. To me, this is the essence of creativity: Seek change. Embrace change. Change.
He talked about the importance of day-dreaming: “The simple act of allowing your brain to freewheel can lead you to connections and solutions that had previously been hidden in plain sight.”
He also warned of us of becoming too comfortable in our thinking – of not challenging ourselves. “I cannot overstate the value of this,” he said. “One of the great enemies of creativity is getting too comfortable in your thinking”.
We were also reminded that it is alright to fail. “Though never pleasant” Denton said, “it is an inevitable outcome of stretching yourself. It’s how you get better.”
Denton described creative failure or “creative death” as “when you lose the courage, the passion to keep stretching yourself. To try something new.” Quoting Samuel Beckett, he said: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
A self-confessed “great keeper of quotes,” Denton also shared the quote that resonates with him above all else, from missionary, philosopher, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Albert Schweitezer, who said:
The tragedy of a man is what dies inside himself while he still lives.
Denton summed up to say:
To create is to be alive. To be truly alive is to take risks. Sometimes pain is an inevitable outcome of leaping, but who amongst us has a life free of pain? To take a leap and succeed is to experience, in full, the joy of being alive. Make the leap. Make the leap. Make the leap. When in doubt, change the routine.
We, blissfully lucky to be working in a creative industry, should all heed this advice – on a regular basis. Imagine how boring we could become to our clients, or indeed to each other, if we felt we could rest on the laurels of the creative successes of our past – hoping they would define and protect our future.
I’m hoping that if you were there on the night (or if that by reading this post, you feel inspired by Andrew Denton’s speech), you’ll share with Nextness how you have personally tried and failed, only to succeed.
Or think about how you too might ‘change the routine’. I’m going to start right now.
The Leaders’ Dinner was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where CEO Mike Connaghan opened proceedings by recounting the group’s positive performance in 2012, and outlined the vision and growth plan for the year ahead. Chief Operating Officer Chris Savage also introduced some exciting new members to the STW Group family. Today’s guest post was by Tanya Jones, the MD of Lawrence Creative Strategy.
Lena Dunham’s probably younger than you and she’s definitely more famous. She wrote and directed and starred in the independent film Tiny Furniture, and now she’s writing, running and starring in her own show for HBO: Girls, nominated for four Emmys. She’s inspiring of course because she made it all happen at such a young age (26!). But more importantly, she’s not afraid to go where other people fear to tread.
From nude scenes with a normal body in a world that prefers perfect ones – to challenging storylines about entitlement, privilege, HPV and abortion – her work always features frighteningly high personal and creative stakes. Young or old, man or woman, we’ve all got something to learn from Lena.
1. No one ever knows how to start.
I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but I had no sense of how to go about it. I didn’t know if there was this thing in the world that could sustain me that I could be good at that wasn’t filmmaking.
2. Acting/writing/*insert creative act here* isn’t just for other people.
It never occurred to me that I could be a showrunner and it never occurred to me that I could be a person who was on television.
I remember going to see Les Misérables on Broadway as a kid. I was so jealous of the girl that got to play young Cosette, but I never had a moment where I was like, Oh, that’s something I could do. I just felt like, Oh, that’s what certain people can do. I also never got good parts in school plays, and it would incense me to no end, but I was like, “I’m not cut out for this.”
I think it was hard for me to acknowledge that acting was something that I wanted to do, both because there is a little bit of the perception that it wasn’t sort of an intellectual pursuit because of the fact that it didn’t necessarily feel like there was going to be a place for someone who looked and acted like me to play anyone besides someone’s sort of like a sassy best friend who can’t stay away from the buffet.
3. Image is nothing…
I feel like my work is dependent on the fact that I’m an everywoman. I’d be an everywoman if I lost 20 pounds or if I gained 50 pounds, because of my attitude and it’s my relationship to the world and the fact that like I have two front teeth that are bigger than the rest of my teeth.
4. …connection is everything.
The thing that I love… was that I spent so much of my time when I was younger feeling like such a weirdo that it was hard for me to imagine that anybody was sharing my experiences. And the fact I put out this thing so personal and specific, where the character is going through emotions that feel so mine, and so many girls have gone, “That’s what it’s like to be me” or “You and I are the same,” it’s really been heartening.
I read this quote somewhere… It said something like, ‘Start your attempts to tell stories close to home; the better you get at it the farther you can move away.’
I’ve always been someone who feels better, if I see what I’m going through in a movie. So, I really wanted that for me, and for other people.
5. Don’t be afraid to get personal…
I play these girls who are close to me, but they’re the parts of me that I find the most shameful, or the parts of me that I kind of want to excise. So I sort of distance myself from it. I have the comfort to feel free and un-self-conscious. I sort of go, “These are all the awful parts of me that I don’t get to talk about all day. Here she is.”
6. … even if you’re a woman (especially if you’re a woman).
…I think that people challenge women more who want to tell their own story. Nobody challenges why they want to watch Larry David at lunch. You know why you want to watch Larry David at lunch: Cause he’s fucking hilarious and it’s amazing to watch him at lunch. You don’t care that he’s mean to his friends and lives in a giant house, it’s just interesting, and I think that women often have to make more excuses for why they want to portray themselves.
7. Don’t lock yourself in an ivory tower.
I used to be really scared of what hearing the reactions to the show would do to me. My parents are artists; in their world, in the world of modern artists, you are supposed to just go into your studio and tune everything out, and your entire relationship with your work is supposed to be a super private one. That was the way to do it and you weren’t deeply truly artistic if that wasn’t the way you were engaging the press. But I realized more and more that as the producer of the show—and television being such a medium of the people—I don’t feel I can responsibly ignore the conversation that’s happening with the show.
I used to think Twitter was a waste of time and sort of ran counter to my ability to be productive and to write and now Twitter feels like a really cool part of the creative experience… You get reactions and you connect to people and I love Twitter.
8. Don’t be a hater.
Jealousy and regret are the two things that I try to avoid most in my life, because I think they’re two of the most corrosive human emotions. I’ll totally go with lust, rage, hatred and feelings of demoralization, but jealousy? No. That being said, there are so many things I want to do in my career, there’s no one whose career is like, that is what I want.
My thing is that I respect so much anybody, even 50 Shades of Grey, I respect so much that anybody sat in their house and wrote three books, it’s hard for me to fully hate on it. Because I’m like “ugh!” but then, “you did it, girl! You did it!”
9. Even people who’ve “made it” wonder and feel scared.
A creative career is always up and down, so I think, from having artist parents, there’s a way you never quite get settled and that’s maybe part of the beauty of it. But I’m definitely still having that experience of wandering the Earth wondering if this the right place for me.
My biggest nightmare is that I do something where they’d be like, “That’s why you don’t give shows to 25-year-old girls.” I’m always afraid that I’m being unprofessional, yet I continue to sign all my e-mails “xoxo.” All my freakouts have been pretty private and directed at family pets and/or people I have been dating for too short a time to freak out at in that way.
10. Success is not money or fame – but sending your message to the world.
I think success is connecting with an audience who understands you and having a dialogue with them. I think success is continuing to push yourself forward creatively and not sort of becoming a caricature of yourself. I think success is figuring out a balance between a really rich, intense, fulfilling work life, and the kind of personal life that makes that work life possible and that makes that work life meaningful. I think failure would be the opposite of those things. I think it would be becoming too involved with sort of the traditional markers of success. I think it would be stopping my sort of pursuit of new forms of expression. And I think it would be putting something out in the world that didn’t feel honest and exciting to me.
Every 2-12 months, I get an email from an acquaintance or friend-of-friend’s sibling, enquiring about the day-to-day of being a copywriter (or, more broadly, an advertising creative).
I’m not an industry genius or veteran. But, they don’t know that, so I pretend. Who else are they gonna email? Don Draper? Most geniuses are either really busy or really dead.
Plus, the inner-workings of ad agencies (particularly creative departments) are fairly inscrutable from the outside.
So, here are some unqualified answers.
What do you actually do though?
You sit at a white desk, with a Macbook, in an open-planned environment. Across from you is your creative partner. They could be anyone (though, by law of statistics, they will be a bearded male in their late-20s).
The majority of your time will be spent here, trying to come up with ideas that find something interesting to say about toilet paper or insurance or beer or frozen garlic bread.
Traditionally, you work in pairs: one person is a copywriter, the other is an art director (this is mostly still common practice).
At the start of the process, both of you have the same job — come up with lots and lots of ideas.
These ideas are usually expressed in a couple of sentences, with maybe a crude drawing or a reference picture.
Later on, when it comes to bringing the ideas to life, one person is generally better at using words (copywriter) and the other with visuals (art director). This balance between these skills is reasonably fluid, depending on the individuals. Some can do both well. Some can do neither.
The everyday process.
- Day to day, the job is reasonably varied. You’ll work on 1-10+ things at a time, at various stages of the cycle. The process is generally like this:
- You get a brief.
- You go off and have heaps of ideas, refine them into broad ‘territories’ or ‘insights.’
- You present them to your creative director (your boss). If they like them, you refine them/flesh them out with words and pictures. If they don’t, you cancel your evening plans and try again.
- The ideas are presented to the client.
- THEN (often after a period of back and forth), the client will ‘approve’ an idea, and you’ll start making ads*.
*It is almost never this simple.
One cool thing about this job is that, once you sell an idea, you get to work with talented people to turn your ideas into real, produced things.
For example, if you’re making a TV ad/piece of film you’ll work with your agency’s producers to find the best director.
You’ll then work with director (and production team) to cast, shoot, edit, record music and sound, colour grade and dispatch an ad — which, hopefully by the time it’s done, still has your idea in it.
Shoots can be stressful, but they are the best bit about the job. You get to feel important and craft something from start to finish.
- Bonus 1: If a shoot starts early in the morning, you get bacon and egg rolls.
- Bonus 2: Post-production houses usually have free mineral water and expensive hand soap.
- Bonus 3: If you write heaps of European landscapes into your script, they’ll fly you to the French Riviera New Zealand (maybe).
It’s 2012, though… It isn’t as simple as just ‘make a TV ad.’
If you’re really killing it — here’s the kind of stuff you could be doing.
- A massive integrated advertising and PR campaign.
- An Emmy-winning, viral phenomenon that everyone will remember forever and ever.
- A whole new product.
- Or just a pretty cool way to sell suits.
Disclaimer: To do the cool stuff, you’ll spend a bunch of time making regular old ads. Your job is to make them as funny/interesting and original as they possibly can be.
For context, here’s a few of the things you’ll come by along the way.
- Digital banners.
- Print ads in a newspapers and magazines.
- Adshel billboards.
- Tweets or Facebook posts.
- Ads that run on the back of buses.
- A wobbly thing on a supermarket shelf.
- In-store displays.
- Those annoying videos that run before a YouTube video starts.
- Direct mail flyers.
- ATM screens.
- Brand guidelines.
- Radio ads.
- Pretty much anything with a logo on it.
How much will I get paid?
I don’t know. It depends on a million different things.
At the start, not heaps. But if you surround yourself by fun, talented people, shut up for a few years and use the Conan approach — you should start seeing progress.
The better the ideas in your portfolio get, the more money people will pay you (winning awards helps too, but that’s a conversation for another day).
On the whole, it’s an almost shamefully good deal for mucking around with a pen and paper… Especially if you consider how badly people like nurses and teachers are paid.
In summary: I’ve never met an ad creative who couldn’t afford a novelty t-shirt and a schooner of Pure Blonde.
Do you recommend it?
Yep. It depends what you do now — but it’s DEFINITELY better than proofreading financial plans OR being the graveyard-shift receptionist at a hotel owned by the Masonic Club.
On the whole, agencies are full of smart, fun, hard working people. They’re also generally accepting and appreciative of eccentricity and unironed clothing (or whatever else is wrong with you).
You’re paid to be creative, so stuff like spreadsheets, administration and number crunching is all done by other people.
Also: most places have free soft drink and cheese slices, and you usually get beer on Fridays.
That said, it’s still a job. Expectations are high, so hours can be long and stressful. Some of the stuff you work on is ridiculously fun, some of it’s kinda hard work.
Overall, I like it. Wearing jeans and solving non-life-threatening problems is a privilege.
How do I get a job?
I don’t know. But, assuming you’re starting from scratch, this might work:
1. Go to AWARD School.
AWARD School is still the industry standard for people who want to work in creative departments. It runs for 16 weeks, and focuses on learning how to have lots of ideas. That’s the hardest bit about the job — everything else you can learn later.
It’s super-competitive to get in, but if you do (and can afford the $2,000 fee), it’s an intense, rewarding experience.
Pro-tip: If you know someone who works in a creative department already, buy them a case of beer and get them to do your AWARD School application for you. Don’t feel bad: they’ll feel like a legend, and you’ll probably get in.
2. Write/draw/design/make some things and put them on the internet.
Not necessarily ads — just stuff. A blog, a personal project, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is — just do something and finish it.
If nothing else, you’ll get used to putting ideas into the world, and won’t be so scared when you have to do it in front of someone important.
Creative directors like creativity more than they like ads: just show them something funny or interesting.
Some personal projects that I like — just to show what I’m talking about:
- Everything Georgia Perry does.
- Art director Tessa Chong’s The Sketchorialist.
- Lawrence Creative’s Andy Braithwaite cooks something new every Tuesday.
- Everything Matt Banham does
- The podcast You Look Nice Today
- Copywriter Zach Golden turned his love of swearing and cooking into this
- Art director Derek Anderson’s DUBGIF | The Casual
3. Familiarise yourself with “what’s good” in the industry.
It’s not healthy to spend too much spare time staring at ads, but here’s a few places worth checking.
- Copywriter Adrian Flores asks working creatives to send him three ads they like.
- Creativity Online.
- Campaign Brief and Mumbrella are the local industry standards (just don’t indulge the comments too much).
What if I’m a girl?
Good! There are too many dudes.
James Ross-Edwards has been a copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi and WhybinTBWA Group. He’s currently working on his writing, a series on pubs (and perennial Nextness-favourite) The Moderation Hotel, and freelancing for agencies including our own Lawrence Creative. If you have a bone to pick with his thoughts about copywriting, here’s his twitter: @frank_sartor!
“It is the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labour of creation.”
“Often stepping back you see more, don’t you?”
“There is no ‘properly.’ There’s just how you feel about it.”
“Being self-conscious doesn’t help you at all when you’re alone and trying to create something new. It does nothing.”
“It never occurred to me that I could be a showrunner and it never occurred to me that I could be a person who was on television.”
“And what I did was turn that negative into a positive. I started embracing it like, “Yeah, I’m based.” I made it mine.”
Who would you like to see added to this series?