If you have not read my previous blogs I urge you to do so. In blog 1 of 5 we defined creativity as the continuous process of creating original ideas or actions that have and add relevant value (http://bit.ly/1jyq56I). In blog 2 of 5 we explored associative thinking, thinking differently and looked at methods such as Hyper Island techniques (http://bit.ly/1Ot5vx1). Last week we looked into mentorship and why it is so important to creativity (http://bit.ly/1ZCbwQ6). This week we go back. Way back. We go all the way to childhood and see if we can find a correlation between the way we use to think creatively as children and the way we are trying to think now. As creative’s in advertising, should we be unlearning everything we have been taught at school?
Let’s start at the very beginning
Picasso once said, “everyone is born an artist, the challenge is remaining one as we grow up”. I found myself asking the question, why do all children think they are creative and not all adults do? To me, there are three possible reasons why:
The first is because children aren’t afraid of being wrong yet. As adults we tend to worry about every possible outcome, or negative connotation imaginable before we have even opened our minds to creative thinking. Look at what happened in blog 2 when I put the hyper island techniques to the test. Ryan, a creative from an advertising agency started jotting down everything that came to mind, versus others who hesitated and maybe wrote down 2 ideas – none of which were used in the end. They were afraid of being wrong and this stunted their creativity without them even knowing it.
Secondly children aren’t afraid to question things when they don’t know the answer. They ask the question why, fueled by a sense of curiosity. It’s this sense of curiosity we somehow loose when growing up. Why don’t we ask every client “why is this here?” when they have specifications on a briefing? Why don’t we ask every lecturer at university “why am I learning this?”
Thirdly, unlike most adults when children don’t know something, they find a solution anyway – regardless of whether it might be wrong or not. They take a chance, something we lose as adults and especially as working professionals. In most companies, agencies or universities taking chances, in many cases, will still get you penalized, or worse, fired. How can you expect anyone to be creative if they are afraid of asking why, being wrong, and hence avoid taking chances?
There’s a story about a 6 year old girl which summarizes the way of thinking my above three points try to convey. The girl was sitting in a drawing lesson and never really paid attention in class, unless she was drawing or painting. This caught the attention of the teacher. The teacher walked over to her one morning and asked, “What are you drawing?” to which the girl replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God” and the teacher said “but nobody knows what God looks like?” and the girl said “They will in a minute.”
Should we be unlearning?
We certainly should not forget everything we have learned at university, or expect lecturers to go on a free for all creative spree, no. Unlearning, in this blog, means to take what knowledge you have acquired and simplify it like a child would where possible. My assumption is in doing so, that you will maximize the output of the ideas you come up with. Let’s put the above three ways children think differently to the test on a real life situation. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHtEyDrD4oA)
Cadbury Dairy Milk is a brand who has been around for a century. However they compiled a briefing around the assumption that people were still talking about their love for Dairy Milk, yet it started to feel a bit passive. The briefing asked to get the love for the brand back. Here is where the interesting thing comes in. The agency, Fallon London, was given one week to come up with a concept and the campaign was to be aired two months later.
Fallon’s solution to the briefing was that the communications should feel as good as eating the product itself. This shifted the focus from a formulaic approach which had characterized previous Dairy Milk campaigns. So how did this insight lead to a 1.30minute video of a gorilla playing drums to a Phil Collins song? Fallon, states in an D&AD interview that it simply can’t be explained. Account handler Chris Willingham even stated, “There’s only so much method in the process and then you hand it on to fantastic creative minds”.
Thinking like a child would
In the concept phase for the video Fallon had the concern that they were going too far for Cadbury (at the point the brand was at) so they almost scrapped the idea of a gorilla playing drums in its entirety. They then had the thought “you know what? This is an opportunity, we should do what feels right rather than what we think they will think is right”. Remember how children aren’t afraid of being wrong?
Although the agency loved the idea and spokespersons for Cadbury did too, the higher ups needed convincing – a lot of convincing. This was because the ad didn’t show a chocolate bar once, something truly unheard of for Dairy Milk and Cadbury. Remember how children aren’t afraid of questioning things? Instead of giving up on the idea and settling for one of their other concepts which the client also liked, Fallon pushed through to convince the higher ups in the company; they would not settle and even did four rounds of extensive research to back up the idea to reluctant higher ups.
In the pretesting the question was raised, but will it sell the product? Remember how if children don’t know the answer they find a solution anyways? Well in my opinion there’s a few ways Fallon did just that.
Firstly they needed a gorilla suit, so instead of settling like a normal agency would, they convinced 3 operators in Los Angeles who could operate the best suit in the world (used in movies such as Gorillas in the Mist) to leave their current projects and help out on this one.
Next they needed a drummer, which naturally wasn’t one of the suit operators. Solution? Instead of settling for a drummer in a cheaper suit Fallon taught one of the operators how to drum.
Finally last minute media buying was difficult and they couldn’t get the frequency needed, only a few spots in the Rugby World Cup and the Big Brother Final. Here Fallon worked on a hunch, namely “our ad is good enough to watch, so why not advertise the ad?” They combined thinking differently in a situation with finding a solution even if there isn’t one for a lack of frequency and pioneered advertising a video ad in newspapers. People started tuning in to these shows for the rare chance of seeing the ad, after which it went viral. The campaign changed the way Cadbury advertises, and won countless awards including some of the highest honors in the ad world.
Next week we will be combining everything we have learned up to now to answer the question “can creativity be taught?”. It has been a long wait, and hopefully as fun for you to read as it has been for me to write. This is why I am very excited for next week when it all comes together. Tune in next week for
Can Creativity Be Taught? Blog 5 of 5