Over my career I have often heard people talking about formulas. A foolproof way to arrive at a perfect creative result. To replicate something over and over. A system for ideas. That’s like saying, let’s use communism to create lego.
Sometimes, I still have nightmares about 700 page style guides. Whole forests have died in an attempt to give creativity a short back and sides.
The main reason this happens is the need to mitigate against risk. And making great work always has an element of risk because if it is really great it has not been done before. There is also this collision of worlds. Creativity and commerce. Direct business imperatives wrapped in the subtle art of storytelling. So, a lot of time is spent researching and creating parameters and guidelines. I understand the need for these things especially with large accounts. You do need consistency. However, you also need a spark.
Simply put, the act of creation is about what will be. What is going to happen. No matter how much people wish they can predict the future, they can’t.
That is why the most vital ingredient in the creative process is trust. It is something that has to come from both sides. That is also why it is so rare.
No matter how much research is done, there is still that meeting. The meeting where after everything is said and done you have to push the button. Somebody has to look across the table and say let’s do this. You can be in a 6 month process but there will still be that meeting. I have been in them. And the only way you get through those meetings is trust.
Trust, is a word that is often used in our business but not always practiced. I have seen what trust can do. The boundaries are pushed and the work gets better. And the work gets better because trust has allowed you to go further. That freedom will create better thinking and ideas. It is that simple.
So, in the end, there can be as many systems and structures as you like. This will not lead to great work, at best, it will stop bad work. What leads to great work is looking each other in the eye and having a conversation. The word relationship is a cliche in our business. However, if you look at the greatest campaigns in history you will find a partnership at the centre of them.
Think about your own career. How many of your greatest pieces of work happened because of a process versus somebody trusting you and backing you?
Ultimately, one person trusting another person is at the heart of all great work. I see agencies abuse that trust and clients not thinking it is important. Both are making a very big mistake.
Think of it this way. When the work is done, you want people to feel something. A genuine human emotion. Yet, emotion is often something we try to eradicate in the process of making ads. It is not empirical, it cannot be trusted. Passion and precision. Always the conundrum.
There are those that believe if we have enough facts we will get to feeling. I have never believed that. I believe two people need to look each other in the eye and say let’s be brave.
I believe if you want feeling at the end you need to start with one. A feeling of trust.