The value of gumption

Last week the peerless Mr. Dave Dye posted this on the socials:

Agree, 100%.

But there’s one more thing that I like to see in a student book: evidence of gumption.

My online dictionary defines it as ‘shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness’. What I’d say is that coming up with good ads will only get you so far. What also helps is to look at the circumstances to hand and make the most of them in a way that makes you stand out even further, and offers evidence of creativity beyond mere creativity.

Here are a few examples:

A team Daryl and I hired at Lunar were in the process of applying for a patent for their invention: a plate with a lip covered in a cloth material which meant it could be picked up straight from the oven without burning your fingers. They thought it would be especially good for Meals On Wheels, where elderly people might be more forgetful about heat, and plates are hot. Now, having that idea is good, but actually going through the process of making it is great. They learned a lot about manufacturing and bringing something to market, skills and knowledge that 99% of creatives will never have, but on top of that, they showed they had the ambition and drive to go the extra mile, a quality that’s essential when you want an extra hour on the grade, or a quick spec radio ad from your TV VO.

Talking of which, the team that came up with this award-winner had gumption:

As they filmed a longer, duller Nike golf ad, they noticed Tiger killing time by juggling a ball on his club. So they went over to him and asked if they could shoot him doing it. I have no idea what the other ad was.

When Tony McTear came up with this…

…the only way he could get a big enough budget for it was by selling it to each of the different national Playstation CMOs. They then put in each of their smaller piles of cash to until he had a big pile of cash, and a classic ad. Yes, it was a great creative idea, but it wouldn’t have happened without lots of lovely gumption.

Some of my jobs have just fallen into my lap, but others have required me to extend my own placement, or find out if another team were continuing theirs and stepping into the gap they left, or spend three years patiently moving metaphorical chess pieces around until the right vacancy opened up. Did I also have to be creative? Of course, but ‘shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness’ was often more valuable.

So if you’re a young team, and for some strange reason you want to impress me, produce a YouTube clip with a million views, or make an app, or create a podcast where you interview Idris Elba and Vivienne Westwood about cheese. Dave’s advice is essential, but if you all follow it you’re going to need something else to set you apart.

And if it’s any good, it’s going to take gumption.