Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Kill your babies.

Whenever I tell juniors or students that they should kill their babies, I get the same reaction. Eyebrows raise. Heads tilt quizzingly. And feet shuffle back ever-so-slowly, creating a bubble of safety between us.

Before you sic Interpol on me or banish me from this and every other ad site on the Internet, let me explain.  I am not a proponent of infanticide. The babies I’m referring to are concepts and ideas that just aren’t working.

So often, as both a teacher and creative director, I’ve seen young creatives simply unwilling to let a mediocre idea go, their minds closed tighter than a Crazy Glued eyelid. And I understand why. It’s hard work coming up with ideas.

When you think about it, the creative process isn’t that different from making actual babies. You usually pair up with another person. You both go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It’s often fun. And sometimes painful.

Inevitably, though, the time will come when you have to reveal your bundle of joy to somebody else. You’ll hold it up, smiling, feeling proud and vulnerable at the same time. Only to hear “it’s ugly.”

“It’s ugly.”

This bad news may come from your teacher, your creative director, your AE, your strategist, or, more than likely, your client. But the rush of crushed hopes will rock you regardless of who delivers those hurtful words.

You’ll feel your face flush, knowing it’s beet red without the aid of a mirror. The hair on the back of your head will bristle. Flop sweat will bead your upper lip. You’ll want to simultaneously partake of both fight and flight. They hate your baby!

Of course you’ll want to protect and defend it. As you should. Tell them why it’s on brand. Why it’ll work. Why it’s strategically sound. Why it’s the best idea since “Lemon.”

But also be prepared to listen. And learn. And, if you’re lucky you may understand why your baby isn’t actually that cute after all. And, if you’re really, really lucky you may even gain some helpful insight.

Then go back and make more babies. Yeah, it means more work and more late nights and more pressure. Welcome to advertising. You can’t become the next David Droga without building your muscle like David Droga has:

As you learn to challenge yourself, trust others, and let go of those unattractive babies, you’ll also discover that the deeper you dive into the well, the fresher and cooler your ideas will be.

And remember, when somebody tells you that your work isn’t quite there, don’t pout or clench your fists or roll your eyes or huff and puff or stomp your feet. Don’t throw a tantrum. Because, try as you might, you won’t be able to save your baby by acting like one.

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