Take an idea, take a problem, take a question and exaggerate it to help you find a creative outcome.
One of the most memorable pieces of advertising did this beautifully. The Sony Bravia "Balls" ad, which featured huge dollops of colour cascading through the landscape, took the literal idea of enhanced colour and exaggerated it into something that would not just transform your TV experience but your whole physical and emotional experience.
The art director Juan Cabral reportedly wanted to exaggerate even more than the final shoot allowed, he wanted to throw a million balls through the streets. In fact they couldn’t find a million balls in time for the shoot, and so a mere 250,000 were used.
Apple’s "1984" commercial: conformity exaggerated into a dystopian nightmare relieved only by Apple’s revolutionary new computer.
Old Spice’s "The man your man could smell like". Not really, of course, but yes, in your wildest dreams.
Beyond the realm of advertising exaggeration can drive creativity. Peaky Blinders' writer Stephen Knight took the real lives of a Birmingham street gang and exaggerated the characteristics of one gangster: Sam Sheldon. And, by making him smarter, prettier and more heroic, created the show’s magnetic protagonist Tommy Shelby.
Exaggeration of threats can lead to creativity in business problem-solving. This might seem unnecessary in these times of change and disruption but change is less difficult if you can get ahead of it. Re-imagine customer service by auditing best-in-class service, not in your competitive set only but beyond the sector that you operate in. What would happen if your closest competitor delivered at that level? What actions do you need to take now in order to ensure competitive advantage?
Risk management requires not only imagining the worst that could happen but also working through the business’ appetite for risk, should the worst occur.
New product development and increased satisfaction can be accelerated when you pre-empt a potential client or customer repitch by offering a solution to a problem that the client isn’t even aware they have yet. How about imagining the client in question as the most unreasonable one you’ve ever met. Consider them to have the standards of the protagonist in the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea and the patience of a toddler.
When we were answering the brief for the Cannes Lions Creativity for Good competition, we applied exaggerated thinking to one of the insights. To quote Francesca Ranieri, one of my Team Wriot teammates: “If women received as much business funding as men, and if they combined their business worth, they would become the most powerful economy in the world.” From this exaggeration of the economic facts, we created the award-winning campaign – you can find out more here.
If you are having a tough time, creative exaggeration can be surprisingly helpful. Dreading something? A difficult meeting? A speaking engagement? A networking event? What is the worst thing that could happen, and if it did, how bad would it actually be? I was inspired by this years ago when asking my brilliant daughters how they were so good at networking (my particular bête noire). They replied: “We just think, if it goes badly, we don’t ever need to speak to that person again.”
Cognitive behavioural therapy includes this technique too as a way to stop worrying – exaggerate to the worst case scenario and then go further and work out what your reaction might be to that.
“If the worst-case were to happen, what would you do to cope with it? If you do have a bad meeting, you might be disappointed for the rest of the day, curl up on the couch with a pint of ice cream and watch TV. Get back on that horse the next day.”
Looking for a creative solution? Exaggerate.
Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom