Creative Director Creative Brand Strategy

How to reach creative nirvana: finding the unexpected

By Graeme Noble, Chief creative officer



The Drum Network article

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June 15, 2022 | 4 min read

Most creatives have felt what Graeme Noble, chief creative officer at TMW Unlimited, calls 'the tingle': the magic moment where everything coheres. But it's hard to force. For The Drum's Creativity in Focus Deep Dive, Noble shares his secrets for finding nirvana - it's all about the unexpected.

TMW Unlimited imagines the most idyllic conditions for cultivating creative paradise.

TMW Unlimited imagine the most idyllic conditions for cultivating creative paradise

Let’s say creative nirvana is a pool party on the 100th floor of a 7-star hotel. Drinks are free, the sun is shining. Tom Cruise is flashing his megawatt smile and congratulating all on a job well done as he hands out awards. The client – your client – is positively glowing.

How do you get up there? 100 floors are far too far to climb on your own.

What you need is a problem

The client brief comes in on the ground floor. They’ve opened the doors, tipped the concierge and we’re inside. Our shot at creative greatness is tangible, but we’re still only at ground level. We need a leg up. An ‘express elevator’, if you will.

And that starts with having a decent problem to solve.

Unearthing a problem the client didn’t know they had is a fantastic start. It might involve a short period during your presentation where your client gently craps themselves as they come to terms with an unexpected challenge they didn’t know existed until five minutes ago.

Procuring 'the tingle'

But from the chaos emerges a strategic brief with a dazzling and surprising human insight, and a killer proposition. An unexpected problem means we can come up with an unexpected idea to solve it. In the words of Bon Jovi, we’re halfway there. We’ve piled into the lift, hit the button and rocketed non-stop to the 50th floor. Now, let’s see the creative. By now the client is no longer crapping themselves, but primed and ready for your killer ideas as the brilliant resolution to this drama.

There’s an almost tangible feeling in the room (‘the tingle’ is the scientific phrase) when we show standout creative. But all too often now, procurement have a big (maybe the biggest) say in the room and that tingle might not be enough for them. But, if we show creative that clients want to buy because they’ve also got that tingle (with the insight-based science to back it all up), they can work on their lovely procurement heads too. If they need to, they can sell this idea they love, based on a whole lot more than a hunch.

At this point, we’ve made something great together. The elevator doors open, and there it is: creative nirvana. Ideas that move people.

A big point here is collaboration. It’s not a revelation to say the days of baton passing between planning and creative are over (if they ever existed), but it’s the corridor/coffee/pub chats between us that make the magic happen – something we lost a bit in lockdown.

More and more of our clients want to be part of a collaborative process – and why not? Ideas have a lot more cache if everyone has some ‘skin in the game’.

So, unexpected insight, unexpected strategy and unexpected creative. Happy clients. But is it going to work? If it’s not effective then we’re walking back down to the ground floor via the fire escape. But if we hit these three points, there’s a very good chance we’ll make it to that 100th floor, and enjoy the spoils.

To keep up to date with all our coverage head over to the Creativity in Focus hub and register for updates on our Cannes-Do festival.

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