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May 14, 2007

Improving your creative life for tomorrow starts today.

Some of the stuff that has been floating around in my brain the past few weeks.

1. If you have to revise a concept, the copy or a layout more than three times, you need to kill the idea.

I cannot express this enough. David Lubars said it best. When you go shopping for a suit with your significant other, there are a lot of racks with a lot of different suits on them in a lot of different stores. When you like a suit and your wife doesn’t, you don’t just cut off the right pant leg or splash yellow paint on the jacket (revisions). Instead, you put the suit back on the rack and find another you can both agree on. As Dr. Lubars concluded, “There’s a suit out there you and the client can agree on.” Don’t stop until you find it. Just know you’re going to have to embrace murder along the way.

2. Do research first, not last.

Too often, we create concepts out of thin air based on poorly written briefs or for ill-conceived projects. So start with research, do benefit testing, interview consumers of the product, watch them at home, whatever. Hey, the CW/AD team will always come up with something. Let’s start respecting them, ourselves and everybody’s precious time more. Respect each other enough to try to do it right the first time versus wasting two weeks concepting a project without the proper insights or account planning. It’s two weeks you will never, ever get back to spend with your family.

3. Ask for more mandatories.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Creatives are very literal people. If we can’t use blue or have to use the word “Crisp Crumb Coating” just tell us. We’re professionals, we’ll deal with it. What we hate a lot more is when we’re not told that orange and blue are out because one client hates the Florida Gators (true story) or that another one hates the word “administrate” because it reminds her of the word “menstruate” (Again, and sadly, true.) When we can, let’s move this stuff from the creative review to the kickoff meeting.

4. Tell the truth.

For deadlines, client craziness and general ad insanity, simply tell the truth. Creatives aren’t children so don’t treat them as such. If it’s due Friday, don’t tell them Thursday because you know they’ll be late. Tell them Friday and then praise them by saying, “And I know you’ll get it done because you guys rule!” Why? Because, even though they aren’t children, they still like to be praised in the same way my 5-year-old does. Further, stop cheerleading all the goddamn time. When the assignment sucks or the deadline is awful, don’t say things like, “We know the timeline isn’t ideal.” Say, “Sorry this timeline is so shitty, we couldn’t do anything about it.” That lets them know you’re on their team and not the clients’.

5. And creatives, tell the truth about your ability to get the job done.

If you don’t have enough time or are too busy or whatever, tell the AE or traffic. EARLY. Don’t wait until an hour before the review to tell somebody. That’s BS. Man up and ask the AEs for more time. And AEs, man up and ask the client for more time. It was once said that, “There’s never enough time to do it right but there’s always enough time to do it over.” Write that one down and tack it to the wall. It’s truer today the way advertising works than it ever has been. And my personal experience has proved time and time again that, aside from the Super Bowl, virtually every deadline (including media placements and insertions) are arbitrary. There is ALWAYS a day or two in there you can give back to the creatives if they need it.

6. Stop when it’s time to stop.

My stopping time is 5. I get up, close the laptop and go home to see my kids. Now, many nights I’m back online after I get them to bed, but my time to stop is 5. Always has been. After a day of this, I just cannot muster the strength or creativity to keep on going until midnight. Now, like all of you, I have worked all night when I’ve had to, but I don’t believe in it. Great ideas are more likely to come after a good night’s sleep than during some caffeine-fueled all-night concepting circle jerk. That’s where you write those terrible, illegible notes to yourself that – in the fluorescent half-light of an office at 3:30 am – seemed destined to be One Show worthy but stink worse than goose poop. So stop when it’s time to stop and pick it up later. If you don’t have enough time, see #5 and ask for it.

7. Don’t blame the creatives for not caring after round of revisions 13.

Are you kidding? If your spouse asked you – no demanded – that you rearrange the living room furniture 13 times over the course of two days, stopping whatever else you were doing each and every time to do so because it “had to be done right now!” you would quickly stop giving a shit about where the couch and overstuffed chair were. In fact, you’d probably throw him/her and your cadre of Pottery Barn tchotchkes out the freaking window. So don’t blame the creatives when this happens. Man, it’s human nature to stop caring.

Besides, you should have killed that concept 10 rounds ago.

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Comments

Hot damn Tug, that's a bunch of words to live by.

All good ones.

Well said. Expect it to go viral (starting with the three people I know).

This is just perfect! Thanks for putting our brains down on "paper"...

Glad to know I'm not the only creative in the world dealing with the shit...

Tug for president!

Absolutely awesome.

Greetings from Norway! Well observed, well put and well done. Viral fame awaits!!

Nice, Tug. And the sad, shit and giggles part of it is, this is just basic common sense. Why haven't I seen someone put it in print before?

Amen.

I'd also make sure that someone has asked the client if they have some pre-conceived idea of what you are supposed to be doing. Sometimes, no matter how sound the reasoning- or how sharp the strategy- they already were expecting something else.
Have the argument before you start work- and it makes making the client happy so much easier.

"caffeine-fueled all-night concepting circle jerk"

Love it :)


This is good.

My CD puts it nicely: "Why do our clients pay us so much money to come up with great ideas and then demand processes that prevent us from delivering them?"

(Not that it's all the clients fault...)

Just reading this list reminded me why my last job at an ad agency was my last job at an ad agency. This list of advice is the best I've ever read and should be part of the mantra of every creative and account service department. I am especially familiar with #s 1, 6 and 7.

Part of the "mandatories" and "preconceived notions" question should also go to the CD, who may have already discussed a concept or execution with the client -- so further concepting is only an exercise in wheel spinning, one of my personal pet peeves.

Each and every one a diamond! Thank you Tug for saying what we all think but don't have the time to express it because we are busy having our work treated shit, our egos bruised, and our opinions treated like those of a cranky 5-year old. I am forwarding to every account person on my team, as well as all those wonderful, insane, emotionally-crippled, undervalued people called "creatives." I am proud to be one of them. Now get off my ass!

Thank you for giving me a reality check that I am not crazy. Just work in crazyland.

Fantastic.

This is so true.. loved the bite abt 13 revisions..

That struck a nerve. Now I'm getting all choked up. ;)

Seriously, great work.

Just found this thanks to Beyond Mad Ave. Testify!

We creatives seem to constantly remind our Clients of the same things, over & over. Yet you've made a list of things we need to remind ourselves. I'm nailing this one to my monitor… oops… bad idea…

.

Damn, I love some common sense in the morning. John always said you were a genious - now he'll think he's right about everything.

I feel like you've been in all of my kickoff meetings and heard all of our account people set up expectations. Ha!!

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