On the Campaign couch: What will help my agency get its creative mojo back?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: What will help my agency get its creative mojo back?

Jeremy Bullmore has some tips for creatives who have lost their fizz.

I’m not sure whether you’re a client person or an agency person. If you’re a client person, you can make a huge difference very simply: just let your agency know that your level of expectation is high; that work-a-day work is not what you came to them for; that you’ll be extremely disappointed if you’re not pleasantly surprised.

You don’t need to say anything else – and you certainly mustn’t say that you want a John Lewis or a Comparethemarket.com; nothing quenches the creative spark more effectively than being told to be totally original while imitating someone else’s work.

If you’re an agency person, it’s a bit more complicated. The most obvious first move is often the one that’s never made. You need to be sure that, somewhere within your creative department, there are individuals (yes: maybe teams, but more probably individuals) who are capable, quite instinctively, of unconventional invention.

Don’t worry if they’re often wildly irrelevant as long as they can think themselves round corners. Unless and until you’ve got a few of these, you’ll never get your mojo back. Such people are doubly valuable; they not only come up with the goods themselves, if only occasionally; they’re also contagious. Simply by being around, they encourage lesser talents to surpass themselves. If you don’t have any, you need to get some in.

I’ll now give you an amazingly valuable tip, which you’ll discard with a contemptuous snort on the grounds that it’s far too mechanistic. It’s called That Extra 30 Minutes because that’s all the time it takes, though it sometimes takes twice as long.

When you’re presented with an immaculately tailored answer to a client brief, an altogether logical and responsible answer to a seamless piece of account planning: hold it right there. You’d be happy to present it to the client, but just before you do… Recall the creatives responsible – and maybe others as well. Put them in a room with an alarm clock and tell them that they have just half-an-hour to turn what is already perfectly sound into the sensational.

There’s only one rule: the strategy is sacrosanct. Only the execution – the tactics, the finishing skills, the casting, the location, the voiceover, the typography, the headline, the analogy, the music – are up for grabs.

Encourage them to loosen up, to look for possible subtractions, for greater simplicity, for economy, for wit. Then leave them to it. When the alarm goes off, they’ll have become so excited by the way their thoughts have soared that they’ll plead with you for extra time; which of course you’ll grant them.

Sneer if you must but try it anyway. The investment of another hour of time is minimal; and once in about five sessions, the return will be just wonderful.

How can I build my personal brand while still showing my company I’m loyal?

Seldom can a simple question have been more deeply revealing. You clearly believe that the only way to construct a personal reputation is to distance yourself, at least in part, from the company that pays your salary.

In other words, you think your company is not as hot as you are. You remind me of those cabinet ministers who, while nominally conforming to the convention of collective responsibility, are secretly briefing Westminster journalists about the prime minister’s inadequacies and their own increasingly evident qualifications for the top job.

Being a good team player no longer satisfies you. You want to be Kevin Pietersen but without the backlash. And it’s possible. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. It means that you have to be so exceptionally able, over such a long period of time, that recognition of your talent gradually seeps into a general consciousness.

If your question’s a fair reflection of your intelligence, I wouldn’t bet on it.

If it becomes possible to download your thoughts into an artificial-intelligence brain, would you like to live forever as a machine?

No. If I could download my thoughts into this artificial brain, so could other people. If they were bad thoughts, I’d be upset; and if they were good thoughts, I’d be absolutely livid.

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