Second guessing Creativity


It’s been a stressful week. A week of gruelling work, new pitches, presentations and plenty of last minute deadlines. I usually thrive on the adrenaline rush of completing a tough-as-nails project. But, off late the rush has gone. It has been replaced by a sense of dread. Dread that I’ve become more of a supplier and less of a creator.

When I try to do too much all at once, I play to the galleries. I begin cutting corners, give less attention to detail and cut myself more slack than I usually would. Mainly, because I have too much to do and too little time to do it in. Last time I checked, there were still only twenty four hours in a day.

On a micro-level, I feel creativity in print advertising has become pretty robotic. Template, layout, headline, copy, visual, logo and you are almost done. That’s what most clients want these days. There is hardly any time to think, let alone create or develop something new.

On a macro-level, on one side you have the extremely innovative award-winning advertisements. Some of them so creative that you need to have a good think or two to understand them. And once you’ve had your “aha” moment, you wonder if the rest of the world actually “got” the idea. Or had the time to give it a second thought.

On the other side, you have the extremely simple dull looking advertising that you wouldn’t give a second glance to, until you catch the word “SALE” in bold bright type, waiting to smack you right in the face if you don’t drop whatever you’re doing and rush to the nearest store to pick up whatever was being advertised.

Imagine the hours and sleepless nights spent by the creative team to create a superior conceptual ad. Β Pit that against this one simple word SALE, which has the power to invoke your impulses and sense of urgency like nothing else. You’ll now understand what I mean. Why be creative when you can be crass?

I’m at that point right now. Wondering what I’m doing being a stickler for details, when nobody is going to be any wiser. I have become a mass production unit, a creation of an industry that simply wants produce, without productivity.

Until that next awards function or big budget new pitch, when we have to prove to the world that we are better, bigger and bolder. Out will come the thinking caps, the sharpened pencils and the thousand scratches on the storyboard. The endless brainstorming, countless cups of coffee and late night office romances. It’s not about the client anymore. It’s about us. Who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We must then change who we were all those months of being self-contained warehouses and morph into these highly intellectual mothballs of creativity. With pencils in our hair and upper lips that have seen better days. The boss will go on for hours about “out-of-the-box” ideas and “cutting-edge” design. Not realising that those very terms have gone out of vogue a century ago.

So, that’s when we transform. From months of mass production to a single unit factory. And if that’s not creativity, I don’t know what is.

As for me, creativity be damned. I’d settle for some good old fashioned simplicity in advertising. And honesty!!!


28 thoughts on “Second guessing Creativity

  1. Torn between blunt and nuanced. There may be creativity opportunities for both no?

    I ran across a term yesterday reading a 2015 article on virulent Buzzfeed posts — the term was “curiosity gap.” Apparently there’s a thing where consumers of media (or ads I’m sure) get jarred psychically – words that look wrong or a ideas that shouldn’t together, but are — and they *have* to find out more about it.

    I suppose we take our creative sessions where and when we find them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely would like to know more about the curiosity gap. Mainly, I think agencies should guard against being creative for its own sake. Sometimes, the true message of the product or service is lost in an agency’s attempt to be over-ambitious with its creativity. I guess ultimately advertising should make you “feel” something to truly provoke an action. You’re right when you say that we take our creative sessions where and when we find them. Thank you for a most insightful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a world of which I know little. Although, viewing my history of working-the-web, one would think I had grasped this world and made it mine. I haven’t. But my son has. This world is one of virulence.

        No doubt the advertising world, historically and just as apt today, is one of psychology. What is it that garners second looks, double takes, pauses in our routines and “hey! what is that? let’s go check it out.”‘s. And therein is your theme no?

        SALE! Is that a permanently viral word? Are we so economically driven that saving a penny or a dollar means that much to us? Or it it something else? It it more primal? When our ancient ancestors found a fruit or nut tree (or an orchard of them) all ripe and dripping with free sugar, fat and protein what did we do? We yelled SALE! And gorged ourselves on the bounty.

        We have not changed. We are still that 200,000 year old hominid searching for cheap calories, easy protein, inexpensive living quarters, fuel sources, safety and comfort. Knowing this, I think, is the key to selling.

        Knowing this is the key to realizing that we are triggered beings. Triggered by memes and tropes and lulz and /cats/! However these viral theme work — they work against that same 200k year old human brain. Why “cats”? Why SALE? Why Luv, or HATE! or [disgust] or awwww cute!? I don’t know. But my son has started to figure this out using Instagram. And what has he discovered? It’s all psychology. It’s all simple needs/benefits, and timing. It’s all, essentially, advertising. (Or what advertising wishes it could be…)


        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for a most insightful comment. It’s true what you say. We haven’t changed. In fact, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Like you mentioned, we are triggered human beings and finding out those triggers is what we try to do in advertising. Not only find them out, but learning how to use them and strike the right chord with the medium and the message. You said it all and you especially hit the nail when you said, it’s all advertising or what it wishes it could be. Thanks once again for taking the time to visit and write. Loved the comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting read for Ivor today, knowing nothing of the Advertising world, nor the business world, always an eye-opener to read this sort of article. However, I think my outdoor life-style, and a different job everyday is fine, and of course add the little old lady clients, who supply hot scones, jam and cream for morning tea, and a lovely down to earth chat….. can’t be beaten……

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on advertising. You are right. Good old fashioned simplicity is underrated. That is why I love vintage ads with quaint drawings. But many of these may have been considered crass their day so it’s all relative.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey, Karen, love reading about your work, your lifestyle, which seems so fraught and un-satisfyingly satisfying. I know what you mean about those award winning adverts/slogan and the simple ones. I read a simple slogan the other day while cycling through my village for a ten mile jaunt along the coast on my mountain bike, which said: Unleashing mischievousness. For an alcoholic drink that shall remain nameless. I just thought, well, it was appealing to the crass nature of drinkers, like it would contain some magical motion to make them mischievous. All alcohol can do that… if it doesn’t do more. Sigh. You got me mini ranting now, Karen!!

    Great post. As always.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Kelvin for being so complimentary. I do love my work, but I need to vent sometimes too :).Our job can be very fulfilling, even though there’s plenty of politics to deal with. I’ve learnt to just keep my head down, work and cut out all the noise. As for unleashing mischievousness, what can I say? I’ve seen worse or better, depending on how you would look at it. I’m happy I got you ‘mini ranting’ as you put it. Definitely feels good when someone cares enough to rant. Thanks again!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Karen, you’re clearly a creative and soulful writer. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be. My very best wishes to you. And thank you for sharing your thoughts here with all of us. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m sorry I missed this one. You haven’t be posting as much, and I can see why. The pressure must be intense. I can see that you’re a very creative writer. You’re posts are always so well written, and thought provoking. I also think you understand marketing, and consumers better than anyone. Speaking for myself, and for people like me; we’re often very simple people, who are inundated by a complicated, noisy, stressful world. We respond to simple, sometimes funny, and maybe, even clever things- and yes, honesty. Great job, keep up the good fight, and best wishes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Patrick. Thanks for visiting. Yes, sometimes the pressure is intense. But it’s more ‘delivery’ pressure than ‘creative’ pressure. I like what I do most of the time. But it sometimes rankles when you can’t meet your own expectations. Thanks for the great comment.


  7. As an adult, one would think that our goals and career path would be pretty much set. It’s frustrating when we realize that with what we’ve been satisfied and complacent, isn’t cutting it for us any longer. Ive found, though, that we’re never really quite done, yet — at least for those who hasn’t stopped yearning or like you said, “morphing.” My best thoughts and wishes for you, Karen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Yes, off late I’ve found myself getting too complacent and it doesn’t feel great. But I’m also very tired at the moment. So I guess my judgement is not at its best. Rest and a good night’s sleep should put things in perspective. Thanks again for stopping by. Much appreciated πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely. Sometimes over thinking and over editing and over “outside the box-ing” creates the opposite of what you were aiming for at the initial conception of a glimmer of an idea.
    I’m not in advertising but I imagine
    as with a lot of creative practices, instinct is paramount. So I’m sure when you ‘feel’ something coming together. .it usually is.
    Brilliant post, did I say that?! X

    Liked by 2 people

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