The difference between a creative person and a creative.

Here’s an interesting piece on why we can all come up with creative ideas, but only some of us are actually creatives.

It’s a theme that has come up time and time again during my career: great ideas can come from anywhere, so if Johnny the Janitor happens to be passing your layout on his way to repairing the fourth floor bogs, and he suggests your endline might be better if you changed it from ‘Just Do Everything’ to ‘Just Do It’, then whoopee! Problem solved! Thanks, Johnny!

I’ve actually had this kind of thing happen on campaigns I’ve CD-ed. In recent years a lady from business affairs suggested a script idea that I thought was very good, so we put it in the mix alongside the work from the actual creatives and presented it up the chain. It didn’t survive to production, but that was fine – work can serve other purposes, such as showing the scope of your thinking, making other, scarier scripts seem safer, or providing the basis of a constructive conversation with the client.

But what would have happened if that script had made it to the very end? Would the lady from BA, with zero experience of choosing a director, writing an endline or running a VO session, take the role of creative during production? I think that would have been something of a disaster. Would she have returned to her department with a big pat on the back? Definitely. But what if she’d wanted to make more of those contributions, then learn the other aspects of the job of ‘creative’? Well, as the link above suggests, eventually she’d become a creative.

This is like those refutations of homeopathy or faith healing: if they really worked, that is if they passed the same degree of scrutiny as proper medicine, then it they would cease to live under those alternative names and would simply become ‘medicine’. So the non-creative who makes the contribution of a creative, that is consistently comes up with winning ideas right through to the final delivery of the ad, then they become a creative (if that’s what they want to do). And with the best will in the world, they’ll probably end up more valuable to the agency than if they stayed in BA.

But as the above article mentions, planners have been suggesting that they make contributions to the areas that are normally the remit of the creative (choosing music, commenting on the edit etc.). I don’t see why they or anyone should feel unable to speak up about an element of an ad that excites or bothers them. It may be a matter of finding the right time and place to make those comments, and the final say really needs to lie with a Creative Director, but the idea that everyone in the room should just keep their thoughts to themselves seems a bit odd. After all, in the end the public will judge the work, and everyone in an agency is a member of the public. Of course, it can’t be an unrestricted free-for-all, or you’d never get any work done, but if you hire intelligent people and work out at which stage of the process it would be best for them to contribute, then welcome those contributions.

On a slightly related note, I wonder how many of you have experienced the phenomenon of the person in another department who wishes to become a creative. Having experienced this myself as CD, I’ve been very happy for possible creatives to join from account management or planning. As in the example above, if they can prove themselves to be as effective as a ‘real’ creative then why shouldn’t they become a ‘real’ creative? Funny though that the wish to move departments never seems to happen in the other direction…

So if you can do the job of a creative, you’re a creative. If you can run round Aintree at 30 mph, you’re probably a horse. And if you can provide warmth and shelter for hundreds of people, you might be a building. Simple, innit?