The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Art Writes New Rules …

One of the things I love about this industry is our way of re-writing rules.

I don’t mean that in terms of post-rationalisation.

I don’t mean that in terms of rebellion.

I mean it in terms of letting creativity take us to new places.

That said, I think a lot of people forget this.

Clients and colleagues.

Specifically the one’s who encourage work to go where others have gone before.

Or where the brand has previously been.

Or just killing ideas before they’ve had a chance to start to evolve.

Of course I appreciate what we do has a lot of implications on our clients business.

That to get it wrong has serious ramifications.

But – and it’s a big but – doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t move you forward.

The opposite in fact.

They know this.

We know this.

And yet I hear words like ‘optimisation’ far more than I do ‘creativity’ these days.

Now I get it, you want to get every bit of value from something that you can, but our obsession with models and processes just limits our ability to invent and move forward.

Please don’t think I’m discounting the value of experience.

There’s a lot to be said for it.

But basing the future purely on what has happened in the past – specifically your individual past – is not experience, it’s blinkered.

Case in point.

Mouldy Whopper.

Here was a campaign that was attempting to do something differently. But rather than be curious about how it would be received, industry people – the same folks who are supposed to be pushing for creativity – were violently writing it off from the beginning. And when I pointed out that no one really knew what the campaign was trying to achieve – I copped it too.

Hell, I didn’t even like it very much, but I appreciated they were doing something different and evidence showed it was getting people to talk about preservatives in food – which was a positive for BK – so at the very least there were something positive in that. But then a senior industry person challenged me – said it was only people in the bubble of adland doing that – so when I proved he was wrong, he just disappeared. Happy to throw out personal opinion but not happy to be shown it was just his personal opinion. And that was my issue, we didn’t know how it would go. We had thoughts, we had opinions but we didn’t give it the time to see how it played out and apparently, it did pretty well by a whole range of metrics.

Of course, the great irony is that when you do have a brand that believes creativity can move things forward in unexpected ways, then you get accused of your job being easy.

I can’t tell you the amount of times people said to me, “it can’t be hard working on NIKE, they love being creative”.

Of course, the people who say this have never worked on NIKE and tend to be the first to criticise anything they think is ‘too creative’.

My god, when Da Da Ding came out, the wave of, “I don’t get it”, “it’s indulgent” was amazing.

But not as amazing as the fact that a lot of the abuse came from white men not based in India.

But I digress.

I love creativity.

I use that word specifically as I see it as being much bigger than advertising.

At least in terms of where the inspiration can come from and how it can be applied.

I am in awe when I see ideas taking shape. Things I never imagined coming together in the aim of changing something rather than just communicating it.

One of my greatest joys was running The Kennedys, because I saw that in possible its purest form.

From making takeaway coffee cups into dog frisbees to re=programming Street Fighter to represent the lessons they’d learnt over the previous year … was epic.

Sure, sometimes it was scary, frustrating and painful.

Sure, there were arguments, walk-outs and moods.

But as I wrote before, great work leaves scars and while that doesn’t mean it can’t be an exciting journey to be going on, it will have many twists and turns.

Or it will if you are pushing things enough.

And that’s what this post is about, because recently I read a story about John Kosh.

John was the creative director of Apple.

Not the tech company, but The Beatles.

John Lennon loved him and at 23, he found himself art directing the cover of their iconic album, Abbey Road.

What many people fail to realise is the band name was no where on the cover.

And while John had logic behind that decision, many in the industry thought differently.

Especially at their record company, EMI.

In fact, the only reason it ended up happening is that timing was so tight that it was allowed to slip through before anyone else could stop it.

Another example of chaos creating what order can’t.

What a story eh?

And before anyone starts saying I’m wrong …

I’m not saying the decision to remove the bands name from the cover made the album successful. This was The Beatles after all – the biggest, most successful band of all time – so it was always going to sell by the bucketload. However I am saying the decision to remove the bands name from the album cover helped make it iconic … which arguably, helped make it even more successful.

Not to mention make the zebra crossing on Abbey Road one of the busiest in the World.

27 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Fantastic Robert. One of your best posts.
The story behind Abbey Road is fascinating. Would that happen today? I very much doubt it. Creativity is rarely given such influence inside business, especially if the person is under 40 years of age. Loved this post Robert.

Comment by George

TL;DR Designer forgets to add band name to album cover. Still very successful.

Comment by Bazza

I know Rob thinks this post promotes creativity can come from anywhere, even the young. But what it is really doing is making business trust the young creatives even less.

Comment by Bazza

Just to be clear. I’m being sarcastic. I like this post and all the references in it. Even if Rob managed to weave himself in to it. ; )

Comment by Bazza

I think that was obvious Baz.

Comment by George

The tl:dr is hilarious.

Comment by George

Hahahaha. You cheeky sod.

Comment by Rob

best comment youve ever written baz. who did you get to do it for you?

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree with everyone, this post is brilliant Rob. I do wonder what some think constitutes good creativity. I’ve heard people call craft, indulgence and seen reviews of progressive ideas, egotistical. I get creativity and commercial creativity are slightly different, but their power is when they challenge the established way of looking at things. That the biggest naysayers work in the industry that is charged with creating this sort of work is the scariest situation of all.

It needs more John Kosh’s not more obstacles.

Comment by Pete

Good point. Too many people believe creativity is about removing logic. But the reality is it is based off a different logic which is just as valid.

Comment by George

Great point George. Creativity is not the absence of logic, it’s based on an alternative logic. Love this.

Comment by Rob

I think that’s called, the enemy within – and adland has a ton of it.

Comment by Rob

I know it’s making a point in the post, but it’s sacrilege putting mouldy whopper against da da ding and abbey road.

Comment by Wayne Green

Hahahaha. Fair.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Jemma King

stop fucking encouraging him jem.

Comment by andy@cynic

This link is on the first page of google when i search for “mcdonalds cheeseburger”. I feel like the moldy whopper ad is just an indirect answer to this type of stuff and it was something I felt the moment I saw the ad and not something I had to use reasoning to realize. If you haven’t heard this type of story before I can see how the ad might seem repulsive to you though.

Comment by Victor

I’d never seen da da ding. It strikes me that it’s a masterpiece both in concept and execution. I can’t understand why anyone could criticise it. I bet it worked. And not just in its target market. Opinionated creativity always scales.

Comment by John

You’d be amazed how many were against it.

But the best bit was, the people who were shouting loudest were often the people we built the tension of the work against. The people the young Indian, females athletes were loving proving wrong.

Comment by Rob

So predictable. I’m not the biggest fan of Nike’s star-laden efforts, but this one just does it. Boom tish.

Comment by John

at least their stars are fucking athletes so they have more to do with what they do than all the other fuckers who do it. like gillette. pricks.

Comment by andy@cynic

Absolutely Andy. I just think they sometimes put too many of them into one ad which then becomes about the stars and not what it should be about.

Comment by John

Also known as “super bowl ads.”

Comment by Pete

fucking hell campbell, thats the longest intro to get to the fucking interesting but ive ever gone through. its like being asked to watch all the lord of the rings to get to 20 seconds of hardcore. but amazingly it was worth it which means im ill or you hit your annual moment of interesting early.

Comment by andy@cynic

You are still the undisputed master of insults, Andrew.

Comment by George

insults? fuck you. this is solid gold constructive feedback you prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

What a wonderful post. The Abbey Road story is especially delightful. I will be sharing this for a long time.

Comment by Lee Hill

Leave a Reply