Working in the creative sector allows you to experiment, be adventurous and most importantly get excited about the work you’re delivering. But it’s about time we got braver. We need to be proactive, stand out and help our clients step out of their comfort zones. Yes, this may be easier said than done, but once you’ve overcome the hurdles that are in the way you’re on track for success.
Provocative work is a commercial driver. But it’s also a scary prospect – involving time, money and risk-taking. No wonder so many of us are reluctant to take the plunge. Of course, this is as much about client mindsets as it is about creative studios’ approaches. But it’s our job to be brave. Increasingly, clients are looking to us to lead the way. It’s one of those things that’s easy to talk about but harder to execute. That’s why making it happen is a joint responsibility.
So, what is brave creative?
Bravery within creativity takes many forms: striving for a unique way to solve a problem or express an idea, shifting preconceptions within an established market or challenging your client’s brief – there’s no one size fits all when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone. Being brave within creativity can mean varying your approach when trying to meet customer needs, employing a new technology or medium to elevate a traditional response, or even tackling a societal or environmental problem that others shy away from.
What are the barriers to overcome?
In the first instance, brave ideas require the right environment to take root and flourish. A key condition to support this is a solid, mutually respectful and creatively aligned client-agency relationship. The importance of this relationship cannot be overstated. The forces at work, which can undermine such endeavours, are powerful. These include lack of time, lack of ambition and failure to empower – all of which provide reasons to temper ambition, lower sights and take the easier path.
To give brave ideas the best chance of survival and development, it’s worth considering the following:
- Build on insight – use the right tools and sources to support your instincts.
- Co-create – embed your clients into the creative process.
- Challenge your own thinking – employ techniques that disrupt traditional thought processes.
- Look beyond your sector – find progressive markets where innovation is rife.
- Remember great ideas are elastic – they tend to spring back, so aim higher and further than you expect to achieve.
When we founded our agency 15 years ago, the marketing landscape was becoming increasingly busy. Brands were competing to be heard above the noise and struggling to gain cut-through. With today’s proliferation of channels, it’s become harder than ever to stand out. Competitive landscapes have changed and consumers’ attention spans are increasingly diminishing. This backdrop is driving and demanding brave creativity; creativity that shirks conventions and shines out among the mediocrity. Meaningful changes that benefit both consumers and the environment are the ideal.
How braver creativity benefits both client and agency
The benefits of braver creativity are clear for clients. Not only will it drive greater commercial success – capturing the imaginations of its intended targets and motivating changes in their behaviours to drive advocacy and sales – it should also motivate your teams internally. This will help encourage them to feel as if they’re part of a brand with purpose, one that’s exciting, dynamic and not afraid to make its own mark. All of this works to drive exceptional brand value that will delight business stakeholders.
For agencies, it validates their reason for being. It forms the environment in which their creativity can be expressed and establishes a clear case for the commercial potential. Inspiring work motivates teams, builds agency kudos and attracts the very best talent. This is especially true for agencies that break the mould and create exciting and effective work.
It’s said that doing the same thing twice and expecting a different outcome is the definition of madness. This is definitely true in the fast world of brand communications. The sheer saturation of similar communications that fail to ‘interrupt’ the thought process of modern consumers is worrying. The rewards that can be gleaned from shifting your strategy, adopting disruptive techniques and changing the conversation are great. Embrace them.
Thankfully, there are a few great examples of brand owners and agencies that have decided to be brave. By redefining the communications approach within their sector, they have reaped the rewards and seen meaningful change. From Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad Dream Crazy (above), Patagonia’s 1% for the planet to KFC’s Chicken shortage closures (both below), there are many examples which show the power of creative ideas that break from the norm.
Although it may test and sometimes confound, taking a brave approach excites and energises, helping to fuel conversations, drive advocacy and shift behaviour. What matters most is that brave creative cuts through the noise, but the client benefit must be clear on the intention and justification from the beginning.
When brave creative is pitched in a way that makes clients think it’s more about you than them, you’ve got no chance. It’s possible to create brave, measurable work with real longevity, but it requires agencies and clients to take joint-responsibility and find ways to move bravely forward together.
Jeremy Harvey is founder and creative director at Clarity.