The Freedom to Create

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Where do marketing creative ideas come from?

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Where do marketing creative ideas come from? That’s a great mystery. They can originate from anywhere and from anyone. A better question might be: How does one do marketing creative? Now that I’ve been working as a creative director for over 25 years, my answer might surprise you. I believe the freedom to create happens within well-defined boundaries. Let me explain.

Suppose you have an awesome, game changing, top secret, new product that’s going to set the world afire. You hire DKY as the agency to market your gizmo—thank you very much. It’s your intent to launch with the craziest creative viral campaign that’s ever gone global. And that’s all you tell us. No info about your product, its competition, your budget or anything else. “Just go be creative!” you say. Now, we might get lucky and come up with something that trips your trigger. But the odds aren’t very good for either of us. Here’s why:

Good marketing creative is defined by clear boundaries. The foundation of a well thought-out campaign lies in the creative blueprint which defines the boundaries of the assignment. The answers to critical questions are what establish these boundaries. What is the marketing objective? Who is the target audience? What is unique about the product? What are the features/benefits? What is the brand promise? What is the budget? Et cetera. Before we play in the sandbox, we need to define the sandbox. After all, what good is a million dollar idea when you have a quarter million dollar budget?

So the first step of doing marketing creative work is to define the creative boundaries. Of course marketers desire super awesome creative ideas. But usually when they ask an agency “to think outside the box,” more often than not they shy away from the super awesome creative ideas that are presented. Why? Because their internal boundaries have not yet actually changed to permit a different definition of creative. Change the boundaries first, and the creative will follow.

We all love great creative and recognize it when we see it. Disney animator Glen Keane talks about his frustrations with the 2D limitations of creating characters for the movies “Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” But watch what happens when the boundaries of his craft change before his very eyes. In 3D he can literally step into the page.

Keane says, “The soul of any creative art form is freedom.” But creative freedom is still always defined by a set of boundaries. Change the boundaries first and then see where the freedom to create can lead. That’s when the magic happens.