One day a week, Google lets creative staff make whatever they want. Oh, if only in Adland!

January 12, 2011


“Keep observing until they say something bad!”

Get this. Google encourages its creative staff to spend one day a week, every week, working on personal projects. These digital experiments are then put online so that you and I can try them out. In addition, Google welcomes comments about said apps so they can determine whether to develop them further or just let ‘em die. It’s called Google Labs and it’s where Google Goggles and Google Maps were developed. There are a number of cool ideas incubating there right now. There will be more tomorrow.

Finally, someone gets it.

How many times have I longed for my clients to “test” our creative in the marketplace versus running it up and down the proverbial flagpole? Over the years I’ve seen countless potentially brilliant ideas tested into oblivion. We all have. By focus groups. Link testing. Animatics. Millward Brown. The CMO’s wife. Lord, it’s wearisome. Moreover, it’s time consuming and expensive, often surpassing what it would have cost to just produce the damn thing and seed it somewhere.

In all my years I’ve never seen an idea get demonstrably better by studying it. On the contrary I’ve seen ideas get worse… then better again… then split down the middle. You gang rape the muse it will succumb. I know ideas are processed into pulp so that everyone can digest them. But in that process the fire goes out. We are left with a dull ember quickly extinguished in the relentless gush of popular culture. Intuitively, we know this is true yet testing is standard operating procedure. We start with diamonds and process them into coal. It’s ass-backwards!

Until, that is, someone like Google says, cool idea let’s see what people think. If there’s a problem we’ll fix it. If something sucks we’ll move on. They actually have faith in their creative department and, more importantly, in the consumer. No fear.

Oh, I hear the arguments. Indeed, I’ve heard them for 25 years. We have but one budget…one chance to get it right. We can’t afford to be wrong.

I say we can’t afford to be afraid of being wrong. Yet, no one listens to the emotional creative guy. He or she is a tempest in a teapot, more worried about artistic expression than business results. Okay, listen to Google then. They know something about results.

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8 Responses to “One day a week, Google lets creative staff make whatever they want. Oh, if only in Adland!”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steffan Postaer and Paul Biedermann. Paul Biedermann said: Testing kills effective creative. But Google gets it. Great post >>> http://t.co/YP02iYX #usguys [...]

  2. Jeff Jones said

    Steph,

    I was so inspired by this idea that at the end of last year I announced to the agency that starting in 2011, we wanted the entire agency, not just the creative department, to spend 10% of their time on things that inspired them personally and could potentially benefit McKinney (Google makes the same request of its engineers).

    Without having made that proclamation in 2010, we still had a small group develop a piece of software that has so much potential we’re spinning it out into a separate company called Motobias.

    • SRP said

      Jeff-
      Clearly, the more progressive agencies (like McKinney) have programs empowering creative development. I think the bigger lesson, however, is giving the creative you’ve already got (people and ideas) a shot w/out running it up the daggum flagpole!

  3. Now there’s a simple and smart use of creative talent. Not only do they improves employee morale (not like they need any help with that), but they also elevates their brand presence and their bottom line. If companies started acting more like Google, they’d have Google stock prices, too. Innovation people. It’s the best feeling in the world.

  4. jim schmidt said

    lots of places are doing this now. going foward it may be one of the only ways of attracting really talented folks to our industry.

  5. [...] Corporate-sponsored Creativity: This excellent post at Gods of Advertising turned the spotlight on Google Labs. Google Labs is the given name for when the creative staff at Google gets together one day a week to create whatever they want. That’s right — the big time search engine knows what most companies fail to understand: If you give employees the chance to actually be creative instead of just talking about it, new innovations are bound to reveal themselves. [...]

  6. […] Corporate-sponsored Creativity: This excellent post at Gods of Advertising turned the spotlight on Google Labs. Google Labs is the given name for when the creative staff at Google gets together one day a week to create whatever they want. That’s right – the big time search engine knows what most companies fail to understand: If you give employees the chance to actually be creative instead of just talking about it, new innovations are bound to reveal themselves. […]

  7. […] Corporate-sponsored Creativity: This excellent post at Gods of Advertising turned the spotlight on Google Labs. Google Labs is the given name for when the creative staff at Google gets together one day a week to create whatever they want. That’s right – the big time search engine knows what most companies fail to understand: If you give employees the chance to actually be creative instead of just talking about it, new innovations are bound to reveal themselves. […]

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