Take your headphones off but keep listening.
Music, podcasts and audio books are all fantastic and I enjoy spending time listening to all of them but, there is always a but in these types of posts, I don’t put my headphones on when I’m commuting.
I travel to work like most Londoners, on an array of public transport. Its stuffy, packed, often noisy and a fantastic place to observe. A huge part of observation is listening. Listening to conversations, hearing people talk about their lives. Even an quiet tube can be revealing. Listen out of the tiny sounds coming from other people’s headphones.
What are they listening to? Where are they going? Where do they work? It can trigger all sorts of ideas and insights. Working in advertising and marketing, it is easy to think we know an audience just from paper - we don’t. We need to interact and really see people to understand them.
Whenever you get a brief try to imagine the real end user. Not just a persona but dive deeper than that. Try to get to understand your audience, care about them, respect them. We want to create something that enhances or compliments their day. We can only do this when you spend more time observing and engaging with the world around us.
Take the time to truly observe a situation, understand someone, train yourself and hone in. There are always chances to practice. Every long queue, every latr train is a chance to really stop. To watch and to listen.
So next time you’re tempted to pop on your favourite soundtrack from a 1980s cringe fest (we all do that right? Not just me?) , stop. Take it all in around you.
I’ve worked in big network agencies, small start ups and everything in between and one thing that remains true is that there is no such thing as a single creative anymore. We work now in a more collaborative and open environment and the idea of a team has and should be evolving.
Agencies are beginning to open up to the idea of the fluid team; a more flexible team, adaptive to the needs of a changing industry. So if you’re a single creative about to join the industry you’re probably wondering what exactly I mean. Well, it means that you’re not alone. You might be hired as a single creative but you’ll never work in isolation. We are at the point in the industry where we can redefine the concept of a ‘creative’ team. You can expand it, re-shape and curate it for every project you work on.
The creative department should now include the whole agency. This is an empowering moment for creatives in the industry. Yes you might not have a dedicated partner but you will have access to a world of creativity to play with. Your partners should now include the planners, technologists, artists, art buyers, finance team,film makers and anyone who the project needs.
A movement all about the co-collaboration approach that opens up opportunities and routes that can go beyond traditional comms. So while it might seem hard to start off as a single creative, keep pushing and keep networking.
You can now define your creative team as all of those around you. Those in more ‘traditional’ teams too, this is your time to break down those walls and think of your team as a team within a bigger adaptive group. Teams are a fantastic way of creating ideas and now you have the chance to explore not just concepts for your clients but the very concept of a team. So go out there and make your team your own.
I recently picked up a cheap "CCTV" lens online. I mean really cheap. Less than a trip down the local chippy level of cheap. I picked up a Fujian 35mm 1.7 CCTV Movie lens for my Olympus Pen Camera.
It is best to think of this lens as a special effect lens. It is one step up from shooting with a plastic Holga lens but of course wouldn't match the optics of even a third party lens like Sigma.
It creates a soft focus and dreamy effect. The lens is fully manual and mostly suited to the smaller mirrorless cameras. On my bigger SLRs it'll only work as a macro lens.
I've included a few sample shots from the camera. I would recommend picking it up if you see it for cheap but I'd avoid paying too much for this.
I've seen some sellers putting it up as a "Lomo" lens in the hopes that some would be hipster wouldn't mind paying over the odds for that Lomo feeling.
Give it a go and tweet me the results. I'd love to see what others do with the lens.
How long does it take to explain your idea? Do you have to grab several pieces of paper with intricate scamps on them, or play several clips from YouTube to get the idea across? Then stop. I want you to think of the pub.
I have a process at work, one that many of the creatives I’ve worked will have experienced, called ‘The Pub Line’. This isn’t quite as exciting as queuing up several drinks at the bar, it is something much simpler.
It comes down to this. Can you imagine explaining your idea to someone you’ve just met at the local without having to waffle on or pull out examples? Does it still make sense, does it resonate with them? Do they understand?
Many moons ago, long before the rise of wetransfer and dropbox I had the chance to work on FedEx. The agency I was working for came up with the idea of FedEx creating a digital delivery service. Here ‘The Pub Line’ was ‘Fedex can now deliver digital downloads across the web just as safely as they do physical goods around the world’ - this was the whole idea all in one handy sentence. It is one that is easy for anyone to remember and to ponder on.
Another would be when I worked on Skype – ‘To show you can call a land line on Skype I put a guy in the middle of nowhere on camera that anyone can call’
It didn’t require and fancy visual or detailed plan. Those things are there to enhance an idea, not to be the core of one.
Plus in today’s age of face moving campaigns it means you can include your entire campaign message in that single sentence. In a time hungry, choice rich world, that can do wonders for your brand.
This is nothing new, the ‘idea on the fag packet’ is an industry classic. And of course, the ‘Elevator Pitch’. However I think we’ve mistaken these techniques as being about delivering big ideas. ‘The Pub Line’ could be a big idea but it is more than that. It is grounding the idea, it is making simple, stripping it down to its core. Big ideas are ones that resonate with people, ones that seem to come from universal human truths. So this, like many other ways is about testing and refining what you’ve created.
Start by asking yourself what is it about the idea that only your brand could do? What element is the most important? What feeling are you aiming to create? Imagine your idea out in the open, picture how others would talk about it. What is the undeniable human truth that connects with people? Use these elements to help you get your 'pub line'.
If you can build an idea, one that just when explained in its simplest way, that still grabs you then you’ve got a solid, powerful idea.
So this is a call to arms, for creatives to think about the pub. To imagine going up to someone there and telling them the idea that’s bubbling in your brain. To nail that perfect pitch the simplest way... Then, and only then I think a pint or two is called for.
Imagine your friend asked to give him some money, so he could fund his dream of building his ideal cinema. He promises you that when the cinema is built you'll get an early hands on and free entrance while it is new. You agree as it is something you think the world is missing.
Now imagine just before the cinema is opening your friend sells it for millions. Not only that but he sells it to a huge corporate chain, one that doesn't seem particularly interested in film.
You've still got some free tickets but your not even sure you want to go to this new version of the cinema. Worse still you're friend is a millionaire and that was all the reward you received.
You'd be pretty gutted. That is exactly the situation that lots of early backers of the Oculus Rift are feeling right now. They backed what they thought was the future of gaming, now it is a tool within Facebook's future experiences. Many have been demanding their money back, or for more of a reward.
The thing is though, there is no real ground for that according to the rules of crowd-funding. Crowd funding is more like a gift and the rewards are optional. You can't demand anything. It is only now that the start ups funded by crowd-funding are beginning to sell to larger companies that it has become an issue.
So what is the answer? How can people kick start companies but feel like they're getting a just reward.
Well according to some in Silicon Valley, Hyper-Funding. On the most part Hyper-funding works exactly like crowd-funding only that rather than the money you give being a gift, it is an investment into the company.
This should mean that investors would get a cut of any sell out later.
Hyper-funding hasn't so far got a massive presence online. Now I personally think the only thing holding back a sturdy Hyper-Funding rival to kickstarter or IndieGoGo is a slick bit of design and a clearer communication plan.
Ultimately though it comes down to transparency of your company's business plan. If Oculus Rift were more open about there intention to sell or to secure corporate funding, would we be seeing the backlash now? People are frustrated because they thought they were funding an independent movement. So perhaps what Hyper-funding offers is transparency, that you know these companies might sell out but that you'll ultimately benefit. A open deal, one that you know what to expect. So if crowd-funding wants to adapt to survive more companies must put a sell out clause in their outreach campaigns.
Either way there best way to get involved with these things is to invest with passion. Don't put any money in you can't afford and don't expect anything back. Even with Hyper-funding, only look at companies you want to see success. That way anything from there on out is a gift, only this time to you.
Some one once told me that you should give your work your all. That you should eat, live and breath your job 24/7. Even now I shudder when I think about it. I believe that you should work hard yes, you should work damn hard to make what you love but I don't think that this should be at the cost of everything else.
I don't say this just as a decent human being but it also makes business sense. We work in communications, whether that is innovation, direct marketing or social media. We need to know how to talk to our audiences, we need to understand them. What every audience certainly doesn't understand is adland. Spending too much time in this bubble means you will loose touch on what is really important, what matters. You'll be a follower, looking internally. The world is over flowing with creativity and most of it is external to what your job demands from you. Agencies speak of thinking outside the box, so don't live within one.
Your head should be topped up with ideas, stuffed full of thoughts relating to the whole human experience, not just the narrow field that your job requires.
Life outside of work is what fuels you, it is what gives you those bright sparks and insights.
So give your work your best, give it your passion but don't give it every last piece of you.
Find a work environment that encourages you to discover more, learn more and feeds your passion. You know when you've found your fit when your mind is overflowing with ideas and thoughts. So I made this illustration to represent that. Make that face yours, that head splashing with thoughts your own.
This beautiful watch has just gone on sale at MoMa. It is and I quote "Distinctively Uniform Wares, the 104 Series watch has an uncluttered, straightforward design inspired by the simplicity and utilitarian functionality of mid-century British factory wall clocks". Did the original designer of the wall clock ever imagine he was making an icon?
No, he was building something that first solved a problem, how to tell the time clearly without clutter. You can't ever truly know what you're making is made to last or stand out for generations but if you design it to solve a problem, to be the efficient and useful to the end user, then you stand a chance.
Great design starts with cutting away, editing down then building on top. You can end up with the most complex of creations but each step must be simple, useful and serve a purpose. When you follow these rules you won't be designing a trend but a statement that will last.
There is space of course for all sorts of creative, and I do believe that sometimes the best solution is a non permanent one but everyone should aim for one piece of iconic work in their portfolios.
Okay a bit of a clickbait headline, I'll give you that but stick with me. Right now across the globe there will be creatives, technologists and clients all chomping at the bit to use the latest bit of technology. Now while technology is often innovate or exciting it alone will not automatically make your idea itself innovative.
Sounds simple enough? But so often you'll see people presenting a piece of tech or new platform without a core idea behind it. They just want to be the first, it is a PR race. Which is fine. There is nothing wrong with doing something first as an experiment or PR win. There is room for that in the industry - heck it is some agencies entire business model. The problem is when agencies believe that this alone is what makes them pioneers. It becomes the de facto way for innovation. This is dangerous as it means that agencies could be missing out on some truly fantastic ideas. Too blindsided by one path way to innovation.
There are some fantastic agencies out there that are building innovative approaches to business models, services, research and tech. From Karmarama's approach business to AKQA's approach to tech - these agencies build out from a core innovation principle of solving a problem or making something better. Then they build on that with technology, infrastructure and whatever else is needed.
So my message is, yes play with technology but treat it as a tool in your kit. Don't start with Instagram, Oculus rift or whatever else comes next but start with your audience and how you can surprise and delight them. Then find a solution to do that, this is where you look at what platform or technology can help you achieve this.
As always start with a human truth, an idea that you can build on. A platform idea that can help your message go anywhere in any medium. Then you're idea will last far beyond technology.
Think back to Secondlife if you want a reminder of what happens to brands when they just use technology without an idea.
Here is a little spot I created for EDF electricity with Fred & Eric Animations. One of those quick turn around, storyboard to animation, jobs. The concept was to keep things all centred around the customer.
My read of the week. If you work in digital creativity it is definitely worth picking up. The book looks at the negative impact of the web. It is quite cutting and attacks how the internet is eroding our sense of past and future as we are driven to live in the present, the moment online.
The book describes itself as : "A sharp and witty book, from long-time Silicon Valley observer and author Andrew Keen that argues that, on balance, the Internet has had a disastrous impact on all our lives."
It raises some interesting points on business models, big data and how everyone no matter what industry will feel the impact of the digital revolution.
So if you're a digital advocate see the web from the other side.
Too often I see fantastic creative people that have let themselves slip into a world where they let others define what is and isn’t creative. Often it is work that seems to define what productive creative is, puts artificial limits on how we express ourselves. Sometimes that is defined by client or by budget but very often it is creative people limiting themselves.
We should never let our job limit anything we do, our careers should enhance us, make us feel empowered. We work in a fantastic time, the world is bubbling with ideas and now more than ever the ability to make those ideas happen.
So if you fine yourself limited then step back and reconnect with what you define as creative. Then find the role that allows you to be that.
Since beginning my career I've always been fascinated by life before digital. Even though digital is a huge part of what I do, I find it is key to understand what creatives and makers had to do to achieve what we can do with ease these days on a computer.
For me it is learning the craft and time it takes to create. It gives a better appreciation of what people make and have made.
A big part of that for me is photography. I shoot digitally for work and client projects but you can always find an old 35mm or Instant camera in my kit bag. I love experimenting with the film, lighting and knowing that you can't fix anything that's not captured correctly in post.
It is part art and part science. You have to focus on the image, the core of what you aim to capture and not rely on the visual alone to tell your story.
As a creative I've often told my team to break an idea down to what I call "The pub line" .If you can go to a stranger in a bar and tell them the idea without having to whip out visuals or explain it for hours and hours, then you know you've got a solid idea to build on.
Videos, campaigns, imagery they stimulate the mind but what we all remember if the core of the idea.
So I constantly train myself to think about the core and everything else on top is the enhancement to what I'm saying. A good website will help build a brand but a good idea will help it become loved.