To paraphrase an old Tottenham Hotspur legend, back in the days when ‘Saint and Greavsie’ was absolutely de rigueur of a Saturday lunchtime for any self respecting football fan, advertising is a ‘funny old game’.
Leastways, it can be for the creative.
Especially when you’re talking about the creative process, that often weary, always inexorable journey towards the ‘big idea’.
Anyone who’s ever set out on that particular mission on a regular basis will be familiar with how it goes. Basically, you stare at a big, blank, white layout pad, chunky black marker pen poised at the ready, for hours on end, hoping against hope that some big fat juicy, brief-answering, potentially award winning idea is going to somehow magically and spontaneously pop into your head from nowhere.
Then the hours turn into days. The days can and often do turn into weeks.
And, despite spending what seems like an eternity endlessly pinballing things around your head, despite mentally screwing yourself up into the tightest of stress-filled balls exploring and re-exploring potential creative routes, your layout pad is still the same as it was at the start of the journey.
Big, blank, white.
Untroubled by even the slightest scribble. Undisturbed by anything that looks remotely workable or developable.
In the meantime, of course, you distract yourself, seeking inspiration everywhere, eking out creative stimulation in everything.
You absorb every piece of the client’s sales literature, devour every PowerPoint, pore relentlessly over every last syllable on the website, becoming, to all intents and purposes, a part time expert on them, on their sector, on their competitors.
You go out to their headquarters, visit the factory, meet the people, imbibe their culture – getting to know them, getting to know all about them (I used to be intimately acquainted with most, if not all, of the 200 individual operations required to handcraft a single pair of boots for a shoe manufacturing client).
You spend the thick end of two weeks turning yourself into the equivalent of some kind of advertising creative monk. Getting up at a ridiculously early hour, going to bed late, forgetting to eat in-between – surviving on a diet of thick, black, treacle-like coffee, the kind your spoon stands up in. Your kids start to ask their mother who that monosyllabic zombie is with the rigid stare and sunken eyes, and what has he done with their father.
You change tack, your approach, your routines, even try to change the scenery – a former HROC creative guru always insisted that my art director and I, when bereft of creative inspiration, should go and sit in a boat in the middle of a lake (I think it was a symbolic thing, not to be taken literally).
And then, just when you think your brain has been squeezed dry of every last drop of creative juice, just when you’ve had your fill of going over and over possible creative routes you dismissed days before as weak and clichéd and hackneyed, just when you are absolutely at the end of your tether and seriously entertaining alternative career options…
… it happens.
An idea appears. Materialises out of nothing.
It’s akin to electricity. Something, a thought process, going into a kind of instantaneous electrical loop. Something previously intangible joining up. One part of the brain connecting with another connecting with another connecting with another. All your ducks suddenly lining up into a nice, neat neural sequential row.
And, even before the idea’s properly come together, even before it’s really taken shape, you’re already picking it up, running with it, probing and prodding it, pushing back the boundaries of its potential further and further, as you realise the idea isn’t just good, it also has ‘legs’.
And you know. In an instant, you know. You’ve done it. You’ve cracked it.
You can’t legislate when or where or what or how. You simply can’t. This is why there is such strong advertising folklore about ideas being scribbled down on the back of the proverbial fag packet – because, chances are, the eureka moment came to you while you were staring down into a urinal.
No matter how much you delve or post-analyse, you will never understand what the trigger was. As you stand there bathing in the warm afterglow of the knowledge that you’ve pulled it out of the bag, you won’t be able to pinpoint the catalyst. All you’ll know is that you probably had to go through all those days and weeks of mad desperate agonising and creative barrenness to get you to where you are now.
And you’ll probably feel it was worth it.
If you’d like HROC to go on a creative journey for you, we’d be delighted to hear from you.