Have a listen to this.

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. 

Why every creative needs to think of the pub more.

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?

The Pub Line Creative. Illustration by Daniel Evans 

The Pub Line Creative. Illustration by Daniel Evans 

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. 

This Wolf Mantra

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.