Guest writer on AdAge says creative department a lot like kindergarten. (Well, you’re a big poo-poo head!)

February 25, 2010


“Who can tell me what the focus of sale is?”

I’m doing a redirect here. I had another story prepared for you but my inner child found something else he wanted to play with. A guest writer on AdAge, Lauren Warner is taking some heat for an essay she wrote about the briefing process (linked below). Among other things, she claimed one should address “creatives on your shop’s team like they’re in kindergarten.”

Others may have been offended but the story made me smile. The kindergarten remark, in particular, made me think about a similar argument I’d made in this very space. Here it is, revisited…

I spent the evening at my children’s school, meeting their teachers, discussing the upcoming year. During this visit, I became aware of how “creative” so much of my girl’s curriculum really is. Colette’s science teacher explained how “experimenting and taking chances” shapes her powers of intuition. Lily’s drama teacher rhapsodized about “connecting to the inner fantastic.” She used the word “connecting” over and over again. “At this age,” she said, “the creative gene is ready to explode!”

I couldn’t help but think of all the “connecting” strategies I’ve puzzled over as a copywriter and creative director. “Connecting people” is the default strategy for all telecommunications, personal technology, and, frankly, just about everything people use in their waking lives. Connecting folks is Coca Cola’s uber-strategy. “I’d like to buy the world a coke.”

Even more interesting was this business about creativity “exploding.” I believe the teacher was saying that our creative muse is born in these opening years of life. That stimulated and nurtured, we begin to understand and respect our intuitions. Kindergarten is a creative department. Experimenting with ideas on the stage, colors on paper, sounds in music class…Christ, that’s what I do!

Or that’s what I prefer doing. Much of my day, however, is spent lawyering on behalf of ideas. Defending them. Subjecting them to all manner of worries and concerns, making them more appropriate, more coherent, more on strategy. It’s inevitable. It’s my job. But it’s also like killing the butterfly in order to appreciate it.

The older I get the more I realize how important it is to stay “connected” to my “inner child.” The best creative people do not grow out of it when they grow up. We remain inquisitive like children. Lovers of fun. You see it in our bicycles in the hallway. Our dubious wardrobes. Our playlists. Our flirty snapshots on Facebook. Alas, you also see it in meetings, where we become pouting and defensive, wilting under criticism, frustrated by the grown-ups ruining our fun. I know we can be insufferable. Imposing MBA logic in Romper Room is bound to create problems.

But our muses shan’t be stymied. The ability to ideate, to find that “inner fantastic” is necessarily petulant. Regrettable, then, is marketing’s obsession with guaranteeing results…or else! Research. Testing. Groups. I say Bleh! Intuition, if cultivated and nurtured, is the most important tool in kindergarten and, in my opinion, the creative department. The old saw is wrong -our ideas are not children. We are.

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One Response to “Guest writer on AdAge says creative department a lot like kindergarten. (Well, you’re a big poo-poo head!)”

  1. Tracy said

    “wilting under criticism” indeed! We take everything related to the work so very, very personally.

    Not to mention it was recently suggested I change my bio to read “10 years of playtime.”

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