The late Douglas Adams wrote one of the smartest, most intriguing and funniest books of the 20th century. It was called 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy'. For the uninitiated, it features an electronic book (before they were real things), also titled 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy'. It's an extraordinary object, notable for the two-word motto on its cover: 'Don't Panic'.
It's a shame that electronic book is fictional, because it would be very handy if everyone, in every creative agency in the world, had one on their desk. Just so that phrase would be front and centre at every point in every project.
Of course, there are many twists and turns, obstacles and wrinkles, just waiting to undermine the execution of the creative process. A change of budget, a change of brief, a change of underwear - so many hazards, so much peril. But nothing, nothing will scupper your ideas and ambitions more surely and efficiently than panicking.
You know how it goes. The whole team is wrestling with a sketchy brief, a demanding client and a looming deadline. Everything is more or less coming together, and then... and then... Argh!! Somebody loses their nerve. The ideas aren't strong enough! The designs break the brand guidelines! The copy's too short! Or too long! Or too funny! Or not funny enough! And, worst of all, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!
Yep. Someone's panicking. And when that happens, things change. Before the panic set in, the priority was to deliver a creatively satisfying solution which stood a reasonable chance of delivering for the client. That just went out of the window. Now the gang is focused on producing something, anything, that will convince one individual to stop panicking. Re-visit the brief, re-do the visuals, re-write the copy - whatever it takes to stop the panic.
Unfortunately, now we're into self-fulfilling prophecy territory. Because now we're completely off-piste. The focus has gone, the rationale is sinking and a finely crafted campaign which was so close to completion, has become a mish-mash of stuff designed to cover every base, just in case anything has been missed or forgotten. What's more, that mish-mash will be going in front of the client in just a few hours.
Panicking can affect any team-member - art director, designer, developer, project manager, it doesn't really matter. Chances are though, it will be the one tasked with taking the work to the client. It's understandable. We all get stressed and we're all plagued by moments of doubt. Nevertheless, nobody benefits from a creative strategy based on anxiety and nervousness. In my experience, the panicker is looking for re-assurance, not indulgence. They need their colleagues to confirm that the original thinking is right; the copy, designs and concepts are spot-on, and the client will love them. And if they don't, there's enough belief and confidence in the work to persuade them. In short, stick with the plan and steady as she goes.
If all that fails, you can always remind them of the wisdom shared by the esteemed Mr. Adams.
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant