Sunday, September 19, 2010

Be curious. Because I said so.

Whatever you do, DO NOT read this blog post.

You're still reading aren't you? In fact, you may not have read this at all if I didn't tell you not to.

Curiosity encourages interaction.

So what was your first interactive experience? When you felt acknowledged as a participant and not just a passive viewer? Most of you will immediately think of something digital or maybe an out-of-home advertising stunt. Or how about that painting where the eyes followed you?

For me, I think it was one of my favorite first books, Oscar's Book. The whole preface of this book is that Oscar wants to be left alone. He speaks directly to the reader and devises evasive schemes, hoping you'll stop reading. I thought this was hysterical. Getting nervous before each page turn in anticipation of Oscar's next confrontational move.

So what was so intriguing about this book? It wasn't so much that I was doing something "bad" by continuing to read against Oscar's wishes. It was more about the curiosity factor and the sense of his engagement. Reacting to page turns, calling me out for still reading, and trying to trick me. Or maybe it was just an early affinity for moody creatives that may or may not live in trashcans.

Do what we want, not what we say. 

Of course in the end, Oscar liked having the reader there all along. (After all, who else was he going to complain to?)

Clients always tell us what they want, but it's usually not really what they want. If we follow the rules and deliver exactly what they say without question, they are usually underwhelmed.

That's why you focus on the other concepts and push existing boundaries. Those concepts read between the lines – delivering what the client actually wants and theoretically what the brand needs. However, the client usually needs to see what "they said" to realize what "they truly wanted."

Oscar's challenge.

Some of the creative foundations displayed in Oscar's Book were covered in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers. You are encouraged to respectively question authority, indulge your curiosity, and surrender assumptions. Granted there are things out of our control that lead to crazy success (i.e. the year and location you were born. And maybe you've already clocked in on that crucial 10,000 hours of greatness training time.)

Curiosity fuels creativity. 

If you are only creative, your solutions will eventually become stale. You have to be curious. We should always look at creative problems with childlike curiosity. The way we did before we had everything figured out. Before we accepted "because I said so" as a concrete answer. Before we gave up the endless search for more answers.

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." – Dorthy Parker

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nostalgia: advertising's weapon of choice.

It's no secret, nostalgia is probably the most powerful tool in advertising. And really, it's the basis for any sort of shared human connection. Whether it solidifies a like-minded subculture, or perceptively reminisces a happier time – nostalgia is a sensory force to be reckoned with. Preying on memories and leaving traces of familiarity behind.

"A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen."Edward de Bono (originator of the concept - and formal tools - of Lateral Thinking, b.1933)
We all favor our "remembered past." You know, the more pleasing version of our past that we mentally replay. It may or may not be what actually happened. The mind stores parts and pieces. Witnesses miss key details. The game of Telephone changes the original message. We all selectively forget about our awkward or fashion-trend-victim phase. (Come on, you know you had one. Break out the family photo album. Yeah, it's there.) 

There are many ways to trigger memories and unleash nostalgia. Sound, vision, touch, kinetic, and emotion-related memories are all areas of access. You may not readily remember something, but one of your senses might have been paying attention. If that sense experiences something similar, there is a direct connection.

Nostalgic cues combine past and present associations, creating related connections when evoked. If used correctly, nostalgia can bypass a lot of trust-building time for a new brand or idea. 

As future predictability becomes less certain, we find certainty in the past.

Recently, Arcade Fire demonstrated how emotionally infective nostalgia can be with The Wilderness Downtown Google Chrome Experiment. New technology unearthed formative memories from a large, diverse audience. The lyrics alone for "We Used to Wait," off Arcade Fire's album The Suburbs, are enough to whisk you back and forth between today and yesterday. A nervously-frenetic present and a calmly-anticipatory past.

The Wilderness Downtown Experiment made me question who I am today and what I would change if I could. It reminded me that patience is not my virtue. Waiting for letters used to drive me insane. But, when they arrived, they were tactile and real. Rich with personal and handwritten authenticity. Sometimes marked 'fragile' and filled with photos. I would read and reread them before they were filed away – to be discovered again at a later time.

Today's communication is mostly instant and temporary. Existing in the present. Living in our memories. Becoming enhanced in our remembered past. All while we no longer wait.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Productively producing productivity.

Creatives are a fairly feral breed. A lot of energy is devoted to corralling and controlling them. Chasing them down the street and trying to lure them back. Distracting them with shiny objects. "Hey look, is that the latest [insert music, video game, or technology reference]? Now, how about that presentation? Any ETA on that?" One jab step and the creative is completely off track and well into the next jurisdiction.

It's not really possible to contain "creative personalities." I use quotes around that because I know it's how the analytical agency folks see us. And understandably so, projects depend heavily on creatives being able to achieve focus. That, however, is not always easily attained between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM while combating constant distraction.

Maybe there's a better way to wrangle creative work constructively within deadlines. I came across this article from The 99 Percent. Their theory is to focus on results, not time. When managed correctly, I'd have to agree with this idea.

They've broken it down into three areas of importance: 

1. Trust – When trust is evident, the wile creative is at ease. No need for welding gloves, tranquilizer guns, or extension nets. They can be safely approached. Who knows, maybe even unknowingly trained with stealth-reverse-psychology methods.

2. Emphasis on results not hours – One thing is certain, creatives are competitive. You don't have to throw down an official gauntlet, they hunt competition. Tell them what you expect and then retreat back to a safe viewing distance. Challenge them with results, and they will deliver on schedule. (Caution: Do not ever directly instigate creative against creative competition. Believe me, it's always understood. It gets ugly when it's spotlighted and prohibits team-building.)

3. Respect the creative process – It's somewhat elusive and cannot be forced. Rigidity leads to mediocrity. Take the anxiety-factor away and the process will develop better results. Teams collaborate and concepts strengthen.

You still have to make your deadlines, but on realistically-optimal terms:

"Of course, there is no short-cut for the perspiration required to make ideas happen. But the time required to complete a project successfully must reveal itself rather than be dictated. If you care about your work, you will do what it takes to get it done right."

[Post inspired by and quote taken from:  Focus on Results, Not Time. by The Behance Team and The 99 Percent]

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