The recent Fucking Clients essay throws a light on how agencies bad mouth their clients for not ‘getting it’. They do so behind their plush office doors, secretly resenting their clients for putting a stop to their creative flow.
Meanwhile, these same agencies fail to appreciate that their clients have more on their plate than signing off an idea.
The result? Genius work misses its mainstream mark and ends up being submitted to the Chip Shop Awards.
But surely there's a way to get more of those zeitgeist ideas into the mainstream? These are game-changing ideas that need to be crashed into reality.
Fear is the number one enemy. It's what drives white supremacists to march and murder.
If explosive ideas and business are to become intertwined, the walls of separation built by fear must come down in agency land.
And for that, you need creative destruction.
The starting point is to smash together both the client team and your agency. Forget the excuse about heavy workloads. That’s just a side show attraction.
Eating, fucking and fighting together is a great leveller.
My favourite approach is one I've become renowned for, the Power Haka.
I am 16th Maori and privileged to have just the right level of authenticity to power in there and blast it out. I first did it on the Eurostar while working at Express Newspapers after returning to Britain from a corporate jolly to Disneyland Paris. Since then I’ll perform it at a drop of not just my hat, but any hat.
Vodafone, Microsoft, News UK – they’ve all had their staff do the haka, because it works.
Authentic Maori organisations, like the aptly-named HakaWorks, enable business people to challenge their fears and blast them out.
The incredible physical release allows us to step into the metaphysical – to even engage with the spiritual as all the barriers dissolve.
That’s why I force all new clients to do a haka with me before we kick things off.
The All Blacks are all about distilling and congealing passion, creating a united front in battle, and they know the haka is the number one way to achieve it.
Blasting it out is the essence of ‘fire and fury’. A rage effect. A roar.
It’s important that all the separated-at-birth elements promoting a brand go through this process together - from both client and agency side.
There’s no point having the agency team seriously pumped up on a haka if the client team is yawning or nursing hangovers after a big weekend while researching skiing holidays on Easyjet.com.
Then you’ve merely created a yawning chasm between agency and client that’s pretty tough to tackle.
Another alternative way to meet your maker before getting down to business is Bear Grylls’ corporate survival academy.
These are all cleaned-up ways of achieving the same co-creative goals that the advertising agency world actively encouraged through its snow storm of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Tim Mellors, the former worldwide creative director of Grey Group, talked about the sheer prevalence of cocaine in the ad industry in its heyday: “Everybody I hung around with at the time did it.”
So prevalent was the ad industry’s favourite fuel in the ‘80s that Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising famously installed a clinic within the agency to help keep the creative juices flowing.
These days many creatives are seeking a deeper connection to their creator through the South American plant brew, ayahuasca, which is becoming more and more popular here in the West as a route to expanding consciousness.
The biggest barrier to success in the creative world is the need never to be seen to get it wrong. It’s a culture that demands you always look whiter than white.
The trouble is, when you’re driven to avoid embarrassment, you stop taking any risks.
The poet Jean Lorrain said, “a bad reputation never did anyone any harm”.
Fear of making a mistake and getting something ‘wrong’ can provoke a paralysis in the creator.
Creative blocks can turn into boulders and then the more successful you are, into mountains. The more a person has to lose by making a possible mistake, the stronger the bars on the prison of their reputation.
We all need to do something non-cerebral, away from the self-talk, to keep breaking away the limescale that naturally builds up as our defence mechanism. It’s that hardened tortoise shell that is the true killer of creativity.
Bang On to Richard on email firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @6hillgrove