…or, why there is no ‘fast track’ to communications excellence
The world is changing, and changing fast. The World Economic Forum is saying that we are on the verge of the 4th Industrial Revolution. That’s Quantum Computing, AI, Machine Learning, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, and all the other ‘ologies’ all fusing together to transform our world.
The impact will be enormous, for society, for business and for the individual consumer. So, if you find the automated checkouts at your local Tesco Express intimidating, the next few years could be a shock.
Of course, technological change has always brought its challenges along with its promises. Remember Hewlett Packard's bold promise of the paperless office? Well I am looking at a wall covered with great creative work – printed on paper. And, yes, I still fall over the boxes of photocopier paper which litter our not-so-paperless office.
The other thing technology promised us was more of that most precious of all commodities: time. In the new working environment, we would be freed from the shackles of the dull and the mundane – allowing us to concentrate on our intellectual and creative output. This was one of the promises of the 3rd Industrial Revolution that I was most looking forward to, but it is one that has not been delivered, so far.
The digitised hyper-connected 24/7 world we now live in, runs at such a speed that it has dragged us all into its gravity well. Speed can be fun, but ‘fast’ is not always the best way to formulate a thought and deliver a message.
Once, you could create and craft a campaign, interrogate it, re-evaluate it, give it the overnight test and make it better, go and have a pint, chat it over with your colleagues and then make it award winning. Today, the new norm for the creative process is too often the polar opposite, with deadlines of ‘as soon as possible’ and ideas needed by ‘end of play’.
And alongside these shrinking lead-times, we are also faced with the exponential growth in data sources, creative influences and platforms for communication. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches for the average creative brain.
Or is it an information overload?
Great communications do not come from simply being ‘plugged in’ to whatever new innovation is storming the Twittersphere. It comes from taking a step back, taking a breath and having the space to deliver.
So, if time is at a premium, how do we make the most of it?
It starts by building a sense of common ownership of the creative idea between agency and client. Our clients are under the same time constraints as us agency folk, so we have to work collaboratively in order to work efficiently. By instilling the belief that the most inspiring idea can be the most successful, we can work together to deliver exceptional work within the required time frames.
Equally important, the work that we do for our clients needs to percolate and develop in a creative culture. A culture that celebrates the different and original, and encourages creative risk-taking whilst fostering professionalism and a commitment to excellence.
Without this creative culture, producing great communications will always be an uphill struggle. The creative culture also insulates and protects the creative process, ideas are delicate things and are easy to damage. They need time and space as well as talent to develop.
Importantly, the creative culture should be agency-wide, not just in the creative department. Instilling creative confidence across the whole agency is vital, as it is, perhaps, one of the main qualities that defines a modern agency. It takes time to build a creative culture, and it can take as long to rebuild a broken one.
At the heart of this culture are, of course, the people that generate the inspirational ideas that transform a client’s business. But these great ideas are often built collaboratively these days. Yes, they are often initiated, curated and ultimately owned by the creative department, but the complex and evolving nature of today’s media channels means that working as part of a wider agency team (or even an inter-agency team) is essential.
One of the ways we use collaboration in the development of creative work here, at ghg london, is called ‘The Wall’ and it is exactly what it sounds like. A wall, covered with creative work, all aimed at delivering a solution to a particular brief.
Our process consists of 3 walls; a cool wall, a warm wall, and a hot wall.
The cool wall is where the first ideas from the client brief are shown, however mad and crazy. Anybody can contribute. All ideas are welcome. The warm wall is a distillation of the best of the cool wall, where refinement of the ideas starts. And finally, the hot wall is where the focused client-ready work is honed into a finished thing of beauty.
The lovely thing about the wall, is that it slows things down in a good way. It makes people reflect, and think and then re-appraise. It helps build the creative confidence that results in better work for clients.
Achieving communications excellence in this brave new world is not easy, but it can be done; with a commitment to collaboration at every stage of the process, and by giving ourselves a little space to breathe, step back and take a moment to consider.
Because time is vital for communications excellence.
As the legendary creative Dave Trott tweeted, quoting another ad land legend:
“Shit that arrives at the speed of light is still shit." – David Abbott
This article was first published in Pharmaceutical Marketing Europe