Here’s the article from which I nicked the first half of the above.
The article goes on to say that even people who are supposed to like creative ideas (CDs, perhaps even your own creative partner) really prefer the comforting ample bosom of certainty:
“This is a common and often infuriating experience for a creative person. Even in supposedly creative environments, in the creative departments of advertising agencies and editorial meetings at magazines, I’ve watched people with the most interesting—the most “out of the box”—ideas be ignored or ridiculed in favour of those who repeat an established solution.”
I bet you’ve been in situations where you’ve come up with an answer to a brief that seems a bit out there. You debate whether to even say it out loud and when you do, you caveat the hell out of it by saying, ‘This will probably never work, but…’; setting it up for failure. In fact that failure (your AD or CW’s rejection) is a relief because then you don’t have to go through the hard work and possible embarrassment of having to explain it to your boss or a client or another team down the hall.
Then you can come up with an idea that fits some kind of conventional shape so everyone can agree that it nudges things forward a nanometre, but in general it’s sufficiently recognisable as something successful that has gone before that everyone can feel safe, like it’s a nice warm duvet with the word bollocks written on it in tiny letters.
So it’s not just coming up with a great, original idea that’s tough; it’s having the inclination and the courage to suffer the slings and arrows that would much rather marshall something nice and familiar towards the finish line. That’s a pretty rare combination, especially as there’s nothing to say the two traits are likely to go hand-in-hand.
When the pairing of great creativity and great tenacity happens it blows the socks off the industry (eg: Tony and Kim at Wiedens, Tom and Walt in their AMV years, Juan Cabral at Fallon), but it’s so rare these days that even the greatest ads of recent years fit more into a familiar form than one that really moves things forwards (Old Spice is a shining exception).
Perhaps this is where newer media (I mean digital/experiential etc.) is showing us the way. Maybe the intrinsic degree of mystery that lies on those frontiers can make them the opportunities for creative stretch and growth that conventional media are less capable of. When you come up with a new tune for a car horn or an app for a sandwich bar the difficulty of really grasping it, along with the smaller frame of reference, and smaller budgets, should mean that originality is more likely to win through.
When I were a nipper, Peter Souter suggested that radio briefs were the best for winning Pencils because the resulting ads were not so scrutinised by the client and therefore a greater degree of creativity could slip though unnoticed. It’s almost as if people have only so much antipathy towards creativity, so if they use it all up protecting the bigger ads, they can’t quite be arsed to the same degree with the smaller stuff.
In 2014, perhaps it is the digi opportunities that work in the same way, allowing you to turn someone’s dislike of creativity into an opportunity to produce it.