Lose the creative ego (and other lessons I learnt from the back of a Ghanaian Jeep)
Last week I found myself on a brand induction like no other - in the back of a Jeep driving through a pineapple field in Africa. To my left I had our head of planning, IIa, and to my right Sophiya from PR. My laptop was precariously balancing on my lap as I typed away. In the Jeep in front were our new clients.
"Our mobile agency in the Jeep was an intense experience"
They had set us a challenge. Come see what we do, interview us, figure out how we operate, figure out our key messaging. Oh, and while you’re here nail the big global idea for us. We were their mobile agency, faced with four days of intensive travelling and thinking.
To crack an idea at speed we needed to shortcut the planning and creative process. We also needed a new way to look at our client’s brand. It turned out that the back of the Jeep created a rather unique place for collaboration. It gave us the opportunity to talk at extraordinary lengths about the challenge we’d been set. It also allowed us to sense check ideas for the brand in situ, as we arrived for the next induction.
Our mobile agency in the Jeep was an intense experience. It kept us focused and kept us talking. So much so our driver turned up his radio up to drown us out (Ghanaian music does not help you think, by the way).
But you’d never get this in an office. Mobiles and meeting reminders were off. We threw out the crap, and focused and refocused our logic. Over endless potholes, we debated the strategy. Over lunch breaks, we’d present our ideas to the client. They’d feedback and give us some other things to sense check the idea against. We were able to address their concerns between farm visits; present our thoughts and allay their concerns. We came up with an array of ideas that helped us deliver one simple, single ownable route and the biggest of all, we nailed the global brand line.
“Yeah, well we do that too in our agency,” I hear you cry. But do you? Planners usually do the brand inductions and staff interviews. Creatives don’t. And PR gets involved at the end of the food chain. And when it comes to doing the creative thinking, that’s just for the creative department, thanks very much.
Well this was different. In that Jeep sat different minds, all of whom were striving to achieve a powerful solution. We were all being openly creative, and my job was to filter, direct and retain the interesting ideas.
Over the years I’ve seen so many creative directors ignore someone on the account team who has a good idea, just because they don’t have the word ‘creative’ in their job title. Well, here’s the thing, we all want to crack the brief. And a creative director’s ego shouldn’t get in the way. In my view that’s just old fashioned, unproductive and detrimental to the client and the answer we’re all striving for. It’s everyone’s job (although, that doesn’t mean everyone’s good at coming up with the goods).
On day three, Ila came up with the idea – we all sold it and the client bought it. So yeah, well done IIa. You cracked the brief. You are a creative. But you still cannot use a Mac to save a life. Leave that to me.
Cathy Hutton is co-founder and creative director of Jolly Rebellion. She tweets at @Cathyhutton