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Bursting the Creative Bubble

How to widen your perspective on projects and create deeper connections with your audience

By Felipe Simi

Advertising reveres highly creative people, lost in creative thought, coming up with amazing creative solutions, in the pursuit of memorable creative campaigns.

And it's all a bubble that needs to be burst.

Please don't misunderstand me. I, myself, am a creative leader and I'm aware that creative people being creative is essential in branding. And I certainly know creative talent hashing out ideas can still generate outstanding work.

The issue is that creative ideation is often a siloed part of the overall process. And while in theory this preserves creative integrity and provides freedom to think deeply about solutions, in practice it isolates the team from real-world perspectives that might help them broaden their view and better resonate with their audience.

This is why when I struck out on my own seven years ago to start an agency, I made it a priority for our team to rethink the process. We needed a series of actions that we could follow again and again, that would help us to burst the creative bubble and get a wider perspective on every project. We like to call them "rituals," because these processes are made to be followed strictly in order to achieve the desired result.

This is what we found out.

Your Brief Needs a Brief

Too often in this business the brief we get from the client is the same brief that the creative team uses, without any interpretation by the agency. While we understand the expediency of this practice, we also know it causes needless confusion, contributes to a lack of focus, and needs to end.

We're convinced that every project brief received from the client must be rigorously evaluated and summarized through the lens of agency expertise, involving account, creative, strategy and production leaders, before it's distributed to the wider team. This allows agency leadership to specify their initial point of view on the project, provide a clear description of the deliverables and other considerations, and detail the commitments and deadlines. We then can reflect this back to the client to confirm we are aligned on the key details, avoiding confusion later.

Diversity Is Key

Everyone sees the world a little differently from everyone else. You can't assume that even your best creative minds can consider all the approaches that might resonate with every race, creed, or culture. Getting a wide range of perspectives on each project is therefore essential.

This is why we believe it's important to recruit talent with diversity in mind. We need our personnel to look like the populations we serve to develop ideas that reflect the lives of the people we are targeting. Try to build a team 100 percent proportional to the population you want to resonate with. The result is a better understanding of consumer motivations and definitely leads to a better creative flow of ideas.

Ideas Can (and Should) Come from Everywhere

Relying solely on the input of a small group of so-called "creative professionals" simply doesn't go far enough anymore. The creative team model needs to evolve to include a much wider range of perspectives, accounting not just for cultural differences, but also for the way people in other professional or life roles perceive the world.

When you remove the artificial barriers between creative and the rest of your organization, it opens the door to new ideas that may not have occurred to your core creative team. It in essence gives your curiosity a finish line that someone else is crossing. You may even want to go further and invite some of the very people we're targeting to contribute their thoughts. The result is a more comprehensive understanding of how to reach the audience before creative work even begins.

And forget the brainstorms. Focus on asking everyone in the team to write three initial thoughts about the challenge instead. Trust me, you'll see the magic happen.

There's No Single Path to Follow

Selecting media targets and then creating ad units for them is no longer always the best route to take for a campaign launch. Very often actions like seeding the market with a solid PR effort or generating consumer involvement in the product-development stage can build early buzz and a sense of consumer ownership before the first ad ever hits a billboard, social post, or video stream.

This is why we advocate for including a broad team of analysts, media buyers, PR professionals and operations staff, all coordinating with the core creative team to help identify the best path to launch.

Treating your media as a provider of inspiration, rather than a solid wall of pre-bought ad space, can be revolutionary in ensuring you and your client's success. After all, as good as your creative team may be in developing the core idea, message, and ad units, they become even better at their jobs when they can collaborate with the media teams on how, when and where their campaign will roll out.

Anything Can Be Improved

The worst thing you can do to the lifespan of a campaign is treat any of the ad units or strategies surrounding them as too precious to change. Every project is a living, breathing entity, and as such they each need to have room to grow and evolve over time.

Continuously evaluating each part of a campaign effort is simply non-negotiable. You absolutely should always be aware of what is working and what isn't so you can make necessary adjustments along the way, amplifying successful tactics and correcting ineffective ones. We need to get to a place as an industry where we can agree that nothing is perfect, and that vigilance and flexibility are more valuable to the process than egos.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Felipe Simi is founder, CEO, and creative chairman at São Paulo-based agency, SOKO.