Tag Archives: creativity

No Moment too Early for Machine-created Creatives

Good copy stops you to read. Bad copy as well (so in that way mediocrity is something you should avoid):

I like to read paper newspaper as it keeps me in touch of the current decline of print advertising (not to mention Straits Times gives interesting viewpoint to the society, mostly by what it omits to tell). This ad is a good example on why we should already move to machine-generated creatives for majority of advertisers.

Of course AI will eventually be able to do even better, more touching and innovative creatives than we do at the moment. Meanwhile we should at least try to differentiate a little, show what humans are better: emotions, insight, feelings. If we cannot add even a little bit of magic to whatever we do, AI will overcome us faster than we have predicted.





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Ferment and Distill Your Ideas

“Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, may produce all the effects of drunkenness.” 
– Oscar Wilde

I like alcohol in its various forms and like with many things the more you know the background of it, the more you enjoy the experience. Therefore I don´t only consume ethanol, I read a lot literature about it (hence camouflaging it from problem to hobby). Besides Three Martini lunches, the art of making booze and the art of making great marketing have lots of similarities. For example this passage about the difference of fermentation and distillation in the “Proof” by Adam Rogers captures something essential about our field of work as well:

Fermentation is a natural process, as close to a miracle as a science-minded type like me would ever acknowledge. Over human history we have learn to harness and adapt it. We domesticated the micro-organisms that make it possible, designed containers friendlier to it, created business around it. But a winemaker taking credit for fermentation is like beekeeper taking credit for honey. Fermentation would happen whether men and women were here on earth or not. If a fig spontaneously ferments in the forest, a monkey is there to hear it. (And eat the fig. And get drunk.  

Distillation, though, is technology. Human being invented it; we came up with the process and developed the equipment. It requires the ability to boil a liquid and reliably collect the resulting vapors, which sounds simple. But to do it you have to learn a lot of other skills first. You have to be able to control fire, work metal, heat things and cool them, make airtight, pressurized vessels. You need a big brain with wrinkled cortex, maybe some opposable thumbs. But most of all you need a desire to change your environment instead of just live with what you have. Distillation takes intelligence and will. To distill, literally or metaphorically, requires the hubris to believe you can change the world.

The great marketers understand the difference of fermentation and distillation and when to utilize both of the methods to come up with ideas.

“Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire”
– David Wallace

Ferment: There is time and place to rely on your emotions and gut feeling. Fermentation is a skill that you either have or not. Let it flow and don´t try to control things. Use just pad and pen, technology does not make fermenting better. Usually when fermenting, the quantity is better than quality. Third beer tastes better than the first one. There is time to distill later on.

“Civilization begins with distillation”
-William Faulkner

Distill: After you had your ideas ferment freely it is time to distill your ideas to purest form. You have to try to control your ideas, make sense out of them. Use technology to find the essence of your idea. Distillation you can learn when you have the discipline. The less is more. If you have truly potent idea, one shot is enough and you don´t need to mix it with anything.

The best marketers are the masters of in balancing between chaos and discipline.

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Anatomy of An Insight: Nazis Against Nazis

It is hard to imagine a more deplorable event than Nazis marching in town where Rudolf Hess was buried. Luckily these sad creatures got a dose of creative thinking and became part of the Germany´s most involuntary charity walk:

Insight: You fight against hate with love. Sarcasm is also the best tool to insult stupid people (i.e. Nazis) without them realizing it.

Sometimes the best way to beat them is to join them., regardless how dishonorable they are.

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Embrace The Constraints but Break The Barriers

I work only to deadlines.

Generally it would never occur to me write a presentation today, which would be due next week. When writing (whether a document or presentation) I need to be in a state of panic, despair and insanity to produce anything.

I am not probably the only one.

Constraints are good, because they help you to focus what you need to do. You have week to do this, the budget would be 100k and we will use mobile. You immediately know what to do. Being without constraints does not actually help creativity, because when you are working on a clean slate you can mess it up with all sorts of irrelevant crap. Thinking outside of the box is not helpful; instead you should try to expand the box as much as possible. The box is always there.

Constraints bring effectiveness, because humans procrastinators by nature (which is not necessarily bad thing). Constraints define the playing field you are and what game you are playing. Which is essential. Playing soccer in basketball court is not innovative, it is just lunacy. You can still do innovative and crazy things within your constraints.


  • Time (Faster is better)
  • Money (Usually there is never enough)
  • Brand belief (Good brand knows what it is and what it is not. It stays true to its belief and does change according to fads)
  • Target audience (Hardest projects are those where you are trying to speak to really broad mass audience. Quite often that is not really the case and you can actually narrow it down, but certain brands and products really have target audience of entire population)

What makes the job hard is not constraints, but the barriers.

They are quite often mistaken for constraints, but the difference is obvious. Instead of defining playing field, barriers are stopping you from doing great work inside that playing field. Sometimes they might come from your inner insecurity (“I don´t dare to do it”) or from general spinelessness of other people (“I am afraid to rock the boat”). Common trait of these barriers is that people who keep throwing them to your playing field genuinely believe that they are helping in defining the problem. In reality they are just making everyone´s life miserable and increasing the mediocrity in this world. And this is an unforgivable sin.


  • Fear (“We cannot present this, it is too bold”)
  • Reluctance (“We tried this 4 years ago, it did not work”)
  • Egoism (“I know better because I won this award 10 years ago and have lived off it since then”)
  • Stupidity (“The copy text has word don´t, isn´t that negative?)
  • Weakness (“Let´s give them exactly what they ask and not what they need”)

So embrace your constraints because they help to get shit done. At the same time try to break the barriers as much as possible, because that helps you to do things that you can be proud of.

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Anatomy of An Insight: Never Say No to Panda

Damn I am getting old, I am not up-to-date with all the different memes at the moment. I also have totally missed this advertising hit from 2010 as well.

Panda Cheese commercials are classic marketing. TV spots build around dramatizing the tagline. Simple approach: Just hammering home that you should never say no to panda. What makes these spots modern marketing is the craft and flair of them. Without the product tagline these would still be entertaining content and not out of place in sites like 9GAG or Reddit.

There is not really any major consumer insight here. If you don´t count that people like to laugh and it is disturbingly funny to see cute animal like Panda behaving like bully and terrorizing people. Too often planners spend time on inventing pseudo-insights like “Eating cheese makes you reminisce and you are actually eating your childhood memories” instead of being truly helpful. Cheese is cheese, make it fun and make sure your brand is remembered. Our field of work is not rocket science, simple is effective. Effective is beautiful.

Different approach and great idea trumps half-boiled consumer insight any day.

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Building a Successful Failing Company

Each year over 30,000 consumer products are launched. 95% of them fail.
The failure rate of TV shows is about the same 95%.
75% of advertising campaigns are failure.
(Probably the real rate 95%, but the years of crafting those Effie entries probably helped to shape that number down)

The conclusion is clear. We are doomed to fail. Or actually we have planned ourselves to failure.

Companies, who do not tolerate small failures, end up doing big ones. Perversely companies are obsessed of micromanaging the staff and punishing for minor mishaps, but eventually end up messing up themselves big time. There is too much strategy & planning, not enough doing (ironically coming from planner). The trick is to fail often and fast to avoid the big failures and to ensure big wins. Actually it is not about failing, but just doing things.

Four ways to encourage doing actual things and failing fast in your workplace:

1. Taking ownership of the ideas and making it a habit
The problem with the companies is not the lack of ideas. Not even good ones. The problem is that there is a lack of ownership of the ideas. Throwing ideas is worthless, planting and cultivating them priceless. That is why Orange idclic works. You do not just throw an idea around. You get the opportunity and responsibility to build that idea.

I remember time selling digital ideas, when clients only wanted TV ads. We always presented those ideas, even though client had not asked for them. First they were irritated, then amused, then interested and finally buying them.

Selling idea is about creativity, vision & perseverance. Mostly the latter.

If you make the habit of producing five presentable ideas to improve your business (or your client´s business) every month, you have presented 60 good ideas by the end of year. I recommend changing the client or the team, if you have not sold any of them.

2. Something Concrete/Month: Test & research with real audience
If after numerous focus groups, strategy workshops and numerous alternations to body copy you still end up messing the project, what is the real risk of just trying stuff out? Also company, which gets its Facebook status updates approved by ten different managers, cannot really be agile innovator.

Your website and social media channels give great opportunity to test things with real people before you commit millions of dollars behind certain idea. When you commit to test one of those ideas every month, you have done 12 prototypes a year. On a worst case you have 12 small failures. On the best case you have done couple of breakthrough successes.

3. Reaction fund: Show me the money to show that you care

World does not spin around your strategy. Your strategy spins around the world. And that world is changing rapidly.

“Ability is little account without opportunity”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Every company should have reaction fund to react to current events. Something relevant happens in the real world, which opens the opportunity for your company. When the opportunity rises you should have budget to react to it. Whether you produce event, application, flashmob, social movement does not matter, reaction and taking the action is the key. The designated budget is also a proof that your company is serious about that agile innovation.

4. Skunk works Exchange program: Spreading the change to whole company

Big change starts with small movements. That is why it is crucial to start with task force, skunk works or lab, with progressive individuals who are hungry to change the company.

The challenge is to spread their impact to whole company. If people in skunk works are the only ones doing the cool stuff, it helps quite little the struggling company around. Thus every member of that skunk works should be member for only limited time. When revolutionizing the company for appropriate time in that small unit, they would be located all over the company in different units. This works also other way around, task forces giving new meaning to bored employees. Think of it as a work exchange, where you do not move geographically but mentally.

The future is uncertain and the failure is unavoidable. It is how we seize the opportunities and try out new things, which determines our success.

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Back in the day, the time before some lipstick salesman wandered in and bought the company and corporatized it, it was easy to make comics.

You had an idea, an editor said “Sounds cool. Why not?” and you did it.

Now there are pitches and proposals and committees and a character like Longshot would be so tangled in red tape from it all he´d end up consigned to the reject bing long before he´d ever be given a chance to jump up and stick to a wall.


-Ann Nocenti

Ann Nocenti is the creator of one of my favourite childhood comic heroes Longshot and a longtime contributor for Marvel Comics. She is most famous for her work for Daredevil & X-Men. Recently she has taken the task to reinvent Catwoman for DC Comics. Above quote is from the Longshot compilation.

Sounds cool. Why not?

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Is Creative Advertising also Effective?

Simple answer to simple question:


Great presentation deck on the subject from James Hurman:

The Case for Creativity

View more presentations from James Hurman
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