“Music is what happens between the notes.”
I was watching Birdman the other night. It is a beautiful film.
One of the central themes for me is the gap between the internal and external reality we all have. What you think you are and what you think you should be. Where you are and where you want to go. What you are willing to risk? Everybody telling you something is a shit idea but you still believing in it. The film plays with this idea of human spaces and gaps and shows how they are necessary to create anything of creative value.
Great work does not happen without some sort of risk. There has to be a leap. And there is only a leap, if there is a gap.
Our business is all about gaps. The gap between a good idea and a great idea. The gap between what is in your head and a clients. The gap between having an idea and being able to sell it. The gap between thinking and the making of an idea. I could go on. But lets just say crossing all these gaps takes a fair amount of courage and persuasion. It is a tango our business dances every day.
And this will not change, no matter how much data you have. There is a simple reason for this. Gaps are where data ends and judgement, trust and relationships begin.
It is strange how very little is said or written about the human aspect of our business. Read about how any great piece of work is made and there will always be a paragraph about how somebody persuaded somebody or somebody was brave enough to buy the work. In the end, this is what creates the space between the notes.
So, it is understandable there are many who don’t like gaps or risks because there is a huge amount of money involved if something does not work.
And because of this, an entire industry has been spawned to explain away the gaps. I am constantly meeting people who have never made a single piece of communication who have the answer or a formula for how things should be done. They always talk about the valu’e of creativity without knowing what it is like to try and have an idea.
They are slick presenters with cool trainers selling the idea that creativity is too important to be left to the creatives. They package and curate. They do not originate. They risk very little and they talk very often.
To use a quote from Birdman allegedly first said by Susan Sontag: “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.”
The truth is they provide the illusion of safety. Their solutions have a lot of context with very little substance. It might sound good in a presentation but it won’t get the job done.
There is a simple reason for this. These professional soothsayers are in the business of creating certainty in a business that is becoming more confusing for many.
True creativity is the business of exploring uncertainty. Many might not like that but that is how it works.
And because of this, judgement, persuasion and belief will always be why great work gets across the line.
It has to be this way if you want to do something new.
And for that, you need people that believe in an idea and are willing to take a risk. Look at the great work over the last couple of years and you will see that. When you do, you will see that despite what many say, the centre of our business hasn’t changed that much. You need great ideas. You have to sell those great ideas. You have to execute them bloody well.
What surrounds the centre, however, has changed a lot. This is why many are unsure or baffled.
This is why there is a lot of fear in our business right now and many are making a living trying to pretend like they have some new answer.
Creativity works a certain way. It always has and always will. It cannot be smoothed over and made more palatable with pie charts and snappy aphorisms. It has to have gaps.
Just like music.
One thought on “Mind the gap. The advertising tango.”
Can’t agree with you more, Damon. Data should always be a guide and not the oracle. There’s a ridiculously important place for emotions and data-unmindedness in business. Businesses aren’t built for bots and systems; businesses are built for humans, and we are as illogical as we come. Can’t remember buying cigarettes for its amazing health value.
Data is the talker. Creativity is the doer. People have always valued doers more than talkers. So what does data do? It talks a mean talk. It creates fear. It predicts doom and hangings till dead. It makes a slick case to be the judge of what will work. It is a terrible judge of great ideas.
It can be a helpful voice though. Pointing the right direction, yes. Judge and jury, no. The leap across the gap will always and should always be the purview of creativity.