Monday, March 21, 2005

Managing Creativity

Great article here called: Think You Manage Creativity? Here's Why You're Wrong.

There may be some stuff you've heard before, e.g. 3M's rule about committing 15% of your time to private projects, but there's some other stuff that hadn't struck me in the same way before.

For instance, a quote from William Coyne, former vice president of R&D at 3M: "After you plant a seed in the ground, you don't dig it up every week to see how it is doing."

The article goes on to say that this sounds heretical in an age of customer centricity.

I think this is true, especially in the advertising and marketing industry. Since the early 1990s there has been a push towards measurable, formulaic advertising that's guaranteed to work - or your money back.

I've been a part (albeit a small one) of this push - recommending and giving away the book "Scientific Advertising" on my HowToAdvertise site.

As a business owner, I still agree that advertising should be measurable. But I worry about the pressure on marketers and advertising creatives - because a "Scientific" mindset assumes a controlled, laboratory environment, and today's business world is anything but that.

Also, there's the art. Some fantastic novelists (e.g. Bryce Courtenay) graphic artists (? Andy Warhol? Help me out here) and movie makers (again, I don't know but I'm sure I'm right) have come out of ad agency backgrounds.

What am I saying - that ad agencies should be allowed to continue wasting their clients' money? No. But the discipline of creating marketing and advertising shouldn't be reduced to a paint-by-numbers exercise. That will dry up the talent pool.

How does this relate to putting the seed in the ground? Well ... to clients of ad agencies big and small, I recommend you trust your agency once you've scoped them out initially.

Get to know them - yes, this takes time - and how they work, and when you're satisfied, leave them to it. They are - if they're any good - mad scientists, who need a few dreary nights in the underground lab before they unleash their monsters on the world.

And don't fear failure - as Valerie Walshe said in my cover story for Marketing Mag, the real failure is when you don't learn anything from a campaign gone wrong.


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