Creativity: “Easy as fishin’ you can be a musician.”

April 11, 2008

Indulging my sweet tooth for insider info, I came across a comment from an unknown soul (Anne) on Agency Spy. Her commentary surprised me. Partly because it was controversial. Partly because I agreed with it. Here’s a portion for your consideration:

“You know what kills me? That Neil French believes in the idea of creative work being so “blood-sweat and tears” driven, when it’s actually breezy work. No one will admit it. Because if clients realized how quickly creatives can come up with good ideas, perhaps we wouldn’t be paid as much.”

I’ve taken the remark out of context, which isn’t fair to the author. Criticizing that indomitable buffoon, French, she had much to say. But I only wanted to address one aspect of her missive: Do creatives have it easy? Are we, as the author suggests coddled and over-paid?

Lord knows we can make a fine living doing something we adore. I know I do. But I’m not sure calling it “breezy” is proper. Maybe Anne meant “fun” Add that word into her comment and we get a new and perhaps more honest appraisal: “If clients realized how (much fun it was) coming up with good ideas perhaps we wouldn’t be paid as much.”

But wait a minute. Clients do know how much fun we are having. For one thing, we tell them. I do. From the pitch on I proclaim how passionate my team will be with regard to their business. When we show work I get excited. I have fun.

Creating and pitching work is one of the most fun things in life. Those of us who do it are blessed. And, yes, we would create ads for less money. Fact is we do create ads for less money. It’s called Pro-Bono. We are always on the prowl for interesting clients that will let us do interesting work. They don’t pay well. My business partners allow me to pursue these small fry because the work we do for them often attracts bigger fish.

Pitching. Searching for inspiration. Snaring ideas. So much of what we do is about fishing, isn’t it? Well, I happen to love fishing. What could be more exciting that reeling in a brilliant idea or catching a huge client? Now that’s my idea of fun!

However, as the waters become over-fished clients become hard to find and even harder to catch. Very wary, they don’t bite on the first shiny thing they see. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. If you don’t you’ll get skunked.

As far as the creative process goes, most every idea has been done before. All the strategies have been mined. For true insights one has to go deeper and deeper still. Coming up with something new is near impossible. Yet we are asked to do so EVERY SINGLE TIME. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For most of creativity is a labor of love. But that does not make it “breezy.” Otherwise clients would just come up with campaigns and to Hell with us, which is something almost none of them do.

One Response to “Creativity: “Easy as fishin’ you can be a musician.””

  1. whawha said

    I think the creative process IS breezy (as in easy-breezy). Unless the assignment is so complex that you can’t distill it down to a worthy proposition, brainstorming and the creative process SHOULD flow…and flow quickly.

    But I also think it’s wrong that creative people posture about toil so clients won’t assume that we’re overpaid. Instead, I think the output warrants the price of creative. It’s not about the time spent, it’s about the finished product.

    And that’s where a lot of creative people fall down: grinding of teeth, beating of breast, agonizing over whether it’s better to say drive-through or drive-thru. And billing the client oodles and oodles because the creative thinks that is justifying the process.

    Part of that stems from the notion driven home by account execs that “anyone can do the creative.” Or that the creative is a commodity…and the really important stuff is the account planning and management.

    And part of it stems from the “my kid could paint that” mentality out there regarding any creative endeavor. If a client writes a biz memo, that means he’s a writer. Or because he owns a digital camera, he can “do” photography.

    And, unfortunately, part of the problem stems from the Internet, where anyone with an opinion and a blog suddenly is a “creative.” So that all devalues creative output and makes the creative professional develop complex “processes” to distance himself from the cult of the amateur.

    I say let the client know that those brilliant ideas came quickly. That makes creatives true professionals–as in, highly skilled top-of-their-game sorts. THAT justifies the billings. Not that someone spent six months coming up with the copy for a tray liner that positively sings.

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