Creative thinking and dealing with awkward creatives

The end of the academic year, 2011/12, is fast approaching.

I was in Oxford last week, and walked past the Exam Schools, where I took my Finals in 1974. I watched for a moment the egress of the examinees as they emerged from the Schools, and silently wished them luck. I was on my way for a congenial lunch at The Magdalen Arms with Steve Dunn: potted shrimps and roast rabbit in mustard sauce with a great Portuguese red.

I had been there in the Exams Schools, too, but I also had one strange and unique night in 1973, when Andy White and I had run Ratjugglers disco in the Schools during a student occupation. We were told it was something to do with getting a sabbatical year for the new post of General Secretary of the Student Union, but it looked through the strobes and oil-wheels more to do with finding a member of the opposite sex who was interest in a snog and a fumble.

14 May at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see British Design 1948-2012

The French enjoying English weather at the V&A

Tomorrow, seventeen French students will be sitting an exam set by me.

They’ll do well. There’ll be twice as many for the next academic year. The current class members are bright, funny and resilient. They’re here because most of them want to work initially in the Anglophone business world before returning to France for a better job. It worked for Celine Leguay, so why not for them?

Ten years ago, Celine walked into Euro RSCG in London and demanded a job. She was working for Dunhill in London at the time and had never worked in advertising. Neither my boss, Paul Uhart, nor I, had the motive, nor the guts, to say no.

And why should we? Celine was a brilliant hiring, and is now Account Management Director at Agence CareĀ 

Attitude and confidence will take you a long way.

A great hiring for Euro RSCG London

Celine Leguay: a great hiring for Euro RSCG London

Looking back over my course, I wonder if it could have been better. And was it good enough?

I’ve been teaching recently, once a week, for the European Communication School, led by Anne Pflimlin. It’s a French School, based here in the London College of Communications in Elephant and Castle in London.

We didn’t have enough time to cover with Dealing With Difficult People or How The Brain Works, but we did try Marmite and Chilli Beer, which the students abhorred, and Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which they liked.

The stuff about dealing with awkward people and the brain go together.

Account handlers and creatives usually rub along fairly well, but when debates about creative work start to go sour, it’s worth remembering that the creatives are not being difficult for the fun of it. They want to make award-winning advertising which sells stuff in its millions, wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes, earns them a big pay rise and a significant promotion, and helps their agency to win significant new business.

They absolutely do not set out to write crap advertising.

However, their point of view may not necessarily reflect that of the client, which is where tensions really arise. Reckitt Benckiser is an example of a client which knows what it wants. I tend to think that, for example, Reckitt is happier debating advertising executions rather than advertising ideas.

So, before you storm into the creative department, bear in mind the following:

  • Creative thinking is generative, divergent, lateral, possibility, suspended judgement, diffuse, subjective, an answer, right brain, visual, associative, richness, yes and.
  • Client and Client Service thinking is often more likely to be analytic, convergent, vertical, probability, judgement, focused, objective, answer, left brain, verbal, linear, reasoning, yes but.

I’ve run out of time with my French students, but they’re smart enough to figure it out for themselves.

Or they can give Celine a call. She knows the answer.

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