Nature’s Creativity

You should try it, I did. It’s good for the soul, and your mind. It’s also good for your health. I need to do more of it since I’m staying inside way too much. You may be, too.

Nature has its own way of displaying creativity. In a park it’s all around us, blossoming, gurgling, flying, looking back at you, sleeping (don’t disturb the ‘gators). It’s well worth your trip but one we rarely take.

Here are a few photos I took on a recent trip to a park near me.

Just remember, one visit to a park doesn’t cut it. Plan on multiple visits. Your body, mind and soul will thank you. Mine did. I even relived it the next day while I was reveiwing the photos I took and then producing a musical slide show of my excursion. Indeed, during those events, creativity was flourishing.

I don’t know about you but I have to experience some aspect of creativity every day. The park helps. So did putting together the slide show. Get a dose of nature every chance you get. You’ll be better off for it.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

Snoopy in Concrete

Creativity knows no bounds. Nor, it seems, does an artist’s or cartoonist’s palette. Take, for instance, a recent, uh, exhibit at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA.

Talk about a lasting impression! If you’ve ever put your hands or feet into wet cement, you know what I’m talking about. When I came upon this photo entry by Jean Schulz, yes, that Schulz, I had to share it via my own creativity blog. All of us can relate to having impressions in concrete. Then, again, if you’re a world-famous beagle, your impressions are as varied as your moods.

In her latest blog post, “Leaving a Lasting Impression,” Jean Schulz shares the simple joy of leaving your mark in wet cement.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

Creativity vs Strategy

Creativity depends on strategy to be effective and successful. And vice versa. Do they need to live in harmony together? From the United Kingdom, the British agency Five by Five’s strategy director Catherine McPherson and creative director Ravi Beeharry discuss the secret to an effective relationship between creativity, strategy and craft.

Strategy, creativity, or craft – which is more important to a successful ad? And how should they work together?

“It used to be like a relay race, with each department handing the baton to another along the production line,” says Five by Five’s strategy director Catherine McPherson. “But today rather than strategy handing over a brief and washing its hands, we’re now running alongside the creatives and cheering them on.”

To an extent, the secret to effective advertising has always been found in the relationship between strategy, creativity, and craft. Too much strategy can leave a campaign feeling more like a PowerPoint presentation, whilst unrestrained creativity risks derailing a brand’s messaging. Get the balance right, however, and you land on the kind of genius which works miracles in the marketplace.

“While there is a balance to be struck, there isn’t a simple formula,” notes creative director Ravi Beeharry. “You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. Take the iconic Meerkat from Compare the Market, for example.

You might look at that and consider it to be an example of creativity which went a bit out of control. What is a meerkat saying about that brand? But in practice it was enormously effective because the balance was right in that instance”.

Knowing which element should take prominence, the pair agree, comes down to your definition of success. 

“Does success mean winning at Cannes, or does it mean driving sales in the short-term? Or is it brand recognition? It might sound obvious, but being intentional about the end result is the first step to getting the balance right”, says Catherine.

“Something we’ll reference quite often at Five by Five is Peter Field’s research into the recent decline in creative effectiveness, and one takeaway from that has been that we don’t look for compromise between strategy and creativity but rather look for harmony. They should feed into one another”. 

“The best creativity bounces off strategy like it’s a springboard”, notes Ravi. “And craft is the execution – actually, let me rephrase that. Craft is good execution. Knowing the precise balance between those elements will ultimately come down to judgement and context. It all adds up to having strong ideas, clearly communicated”.

‘Strong ideas, clearly communicated’ is Five by Five’s strategic approach to briefs. It’s what ensures their clients’ brands get noticed, processed and recalled – and it’s ultimately what delivers effective campaigns. 

And as Ravi notes, when it comes to measuring a successful campaign, context will always be king. However, in recent years a fracturing media environment has made identifying that context all the more challenging. 

The Ever-Growing Crowd

One reality of the modern industry is that an idea can no longer realistically be designed to live in one place. The seemingly endless proliferation of channels and platforms which occurred in the last decade has created a marketing landscape with more nuance than at any point in the industry’s history. But, according to Catherine and Ravi, there are still ways of finding the right balance between strategy, creativity, and craft. 

“Something which we’ve lost sight of, I feel, is precisely what we should be using these different platforms for. They don’t need to be additional challenges, they should be seen as additional tools.

“If you’re going to take one single idea and contort it to fit a TV screen as well as a mobile phone, then I’ve no doubt that storytelling and quality will suffer as a result. But if you work out how to take a central idea and present it in a bespoke way for different formats, then you’re far more likely to have an impactful campaign”, she says. 

For Ravi, there’s an opportunity for brands to become more memorable by elevating creativity and craft across multiple platforms. “It’s probably true to say that there’s a focus on promotion over entertainment at the moment”, he says. “And perhaps much of the culture and capabilities of social platforms, for example, lend themselves to promotion.”

“But look at what Nike put out just recently after Nadal won the Grand Slam. There wasn’t a single pair of trainers or shorts advertised, just a celebration of a sporting achievement which played into Nike’s brand in such an obvious way it doesn’t need underlining.

I came across that video on Twitter, so that’s a great example of using a social platform to drive results through entertainment. It’s a great execution of strategy, creativity, and craft”. 

In the words of both Catherine and Ravi, these kinds of pitch-perfect ideas are the cumulative result of a long-term approach to each of strategy, creativity, and craft.

“McDonalds is another example of a brand that gets this consistently right”, says Catherine. “They run a lot of product-focused ads on the high street but they also consistently come out with beautifully-told stories based on human truths, designed for TV.”

“It’s creativity, strategy, and craft working in perfect harmony over the course of many years. And it’s because they’ve nailed their brand-building that the shorter-term promotions work so well”. 

That long-term approach, then, is perhaps as close to a ‘winning formula’ as a brand is likely to get. But, as Ravi points out, the best insights are invariably based on a kind of magic which can’t be bottled. 

“At Five by Five we have an unprecedented number of tools and analytics available to us”, he says, “but those genius ideas which link strategy, creativity and craft together can’t come out of a formula. If they could, it wouldn’t really be genius”.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Turning Gobbledygook Into Useful Garbage

Stumped. Writer’s Block. Stymied. Confused. It’s all a jumble of nothingness.

What Do You Write When You Don’t Know What to Write About?

So, how do you turn nothingness into somethingness? Start writing! Anything.

The words will come, thoughts will flow and, eventually, creativity will blossom.

You can’t force it, however. It must evolve naturally, at your own pace. Usually, if a creative suggestion doesn’t appear in your thoughts within about 20 minutes or so, abort the process and go on to something else. Then come back to it hours later or the following day.

Some writers think before they write. Some think as they write. Some writers don’t think at all; they just write a bunch of gobbledygook. That’s fine, as long as you go back and turn the gobbledygook into useful garbage.

Turning that garbage into something quite palpable and enticing will take a process of editing and refinement but when you’re at this stage, you’ve got it made.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

 

March Madness, er, uh, Quotes, That Is!

The quotations are as varied as the people who said them. Some you know, some you don’t. That’s what makes them interesting. From Burke to Burnett, Einstein to Degas; throw in a little Serling for seasoning and you’ve got a tasty recipe for March’s quotes.

 

We don’t grow unless we take risks. Any successful company is riddled with failures. — James E. Burke, Advertising Hall of Fame

Success or failure in business is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacities. — Walter Dill Scott, Advertising Hall of Fame

Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people — and he won’t do very well in advertising. — Leo Burnett, Advertising Hall of Fame

If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it? – Albert Einstein

If you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything. – Alice Walker

Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect. – Steven Wright

You must aim high, not in what you are going to do at some future date, but in what you are going to make yourself do to-day. Otherwise, working is just a waste of time. – Edgar Degas

Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message. — William Bernbach, Advertising Hall of Fame

How do we turn science fiction into fact? We do it by inventing our own future and figuring out the realistic steps that we need to make in order to get there. Dare to dream. Let your imagination leap. — David Shapton, Editor In Chief, RedShark Publications, 2012 to 2020

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

 

 

Empowering the Women of Advertising – Today

Today is the day of AAF Northeast Arkansas’ panel discussion on Empowering the Women of Advertising. I’m proud to be a participant on their panel so I have a vested interest in the event’s success.

Increasing diverse participation in advertising and marketing is a business issue, and we need everyone involved. To that end, AAF Northeast Arkansas is today raising awareness about ways to involve more men in creating inclusive work environments and how women can claim their strength within the advertising realm. 

By coincidence, a British publication interviewed several key women in advertising about the current status of their gender within their industry. The timing of this report is appropriate with the timing of the Arkansas AAF panel today.

Think about the people who make the buying decisions for their households. It’s extremely likely that the majority of them are women. And they’re probably more likely to be older than younger. Now think about agency creative departments that you know of – do those teams reflect the people who are likely most efficient to market to? Probably not.

In a recent interview with LBB, a British publication, Sue Higgs, joint ECD at dentsuMB in the UK, had this advice: “I find that it’s someone else’s problem, ageism”. The stage in life Sue’s at now is a huge asset to her as a creative leader. “The great thing about being in your mid-life or wherever we are is that it’s quite liberating,” she said. “It’s quite liberating, I think, to find your strength, and your power, and your voice.”

And that liberated voice is exactly what creatives need to flourish. One thing Sue said she’s learned from her experience is that: “As you get older you learn that people lose their jobs for a trillion reasons and none of them is actually speaking your mind. There’s nothing more fulfilling to say to a young female than: ‘Just tell them. Just say it, your biggest weapon is your point of view. That’s why you’re here. Please use it.’

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Creativity Takes Courage

Fear and courage don’t seem likely bedfellows. Yet, they are showing us every day how they play together amongst the citizenry of Ukraine. When you’re fighting for survival, it stretches the limit of one’s creativity. Some may say that creativity is not even involved in warfare. I disagree.

While creativity in warfare interacts with a much higher level of courage and seriousness compared to presenting an advertising campaign, it requires effort and takes courage, as Matisse says. The Ukranian people are showing resiliency and mucho bravery. Creativity lives within that realm.

Fear and courage impact our creative thinking and expression

Even in a non-combat zone, fear attacks us everyday. Courage is what most of us try and muster to get through a day’s time unscathed by said fear. We may not be fighting to stay alive but we are fighting. We’re fighting our internal demons and our self-doubt. We’re fighting to retain some of our creativity and resourcefulness.

Author and teacher Elizabeth Gilbert admits “the only reason I can speak so authoritatively about fear is that I know it so intimately. I know every inch of fear, from head to toe. I’ve been a frightened person my entire life.”

She points out that “Evolution did well to install a fear reflex within you, because if you didn’t have any fear, you would lead a short, crazy, stupid life. You would walk into traffic. You would jump into giant waves off the coast of Hawaii, despite being a poor swimmer…

“So, yes, you absolutely do need your fear, in order to protect you from actual dangers.

But you do not need your fear in the realm of creative expression.

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A Tip of the Hat to the Cat in the Hat! (and his creator)

Happy Belated Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

As you may have gathered by now, this post is an out-of-the-ordinary-one. It celebrates one of our nation’s top word sleuths, a master of reduced vocabulary and a penchant for a feline sporting a floppy chapeau.

His birthday was yesterday but his creativity, particularly with and for children, certainly merits more than just a mention in this creativity blog. He is, of course, Dr. Seuss, and with that brief introduction comes some background that some of you may not know.

Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was an American children’s author, political cartoonist, illustrator, poet, animator, and filmmaker. He is known for his work writing and illustrating more than 60 books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. His work includes many of the most popular children’s books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death.

Geisel adopted the name “Dr. Seuss” as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College and as a graduate student at Lincoln College, Oxford. He left Oxford in 1927 to begin his career as an illustrator and cartoonist for Vanity Fair, Life, and various other publications. He also worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, most notably for FLIT and Standard Oil, and as a political cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM.

He published his first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937. During World War II, he took a brief hiatus from children’s literature to illustrate political cartoons, and he also worked in the animation and film department of the United States Army where he wrote, produced or animated many productions including Design for Death, which later won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

After the war, Geisel returned to writing children’s books, writing classics like If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1955), The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960), The Sneetches (1961), The Lorax (1971), The Butter Battle Book (1981), and Oh, the Places You’ll Go (1990). He published over 60 books during his career, which have spawned numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, five feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series.

Geisel won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association.

He also received two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children’s Special for Halloween is Grinch Night (1978) and Outstanding Animated Program for The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982).

Geisel’s most famous pen name is regularly pronounced /suːs/, an anglicized pronunciation inconsistent with his German surname. He himself noted that it rhymed with “voice”. Alexander Laing, one of his collaborators on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, wrote of it:

You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice (or Zoice)

Geisel switched to the anglicized pronunciation because it “evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with—Mother Goose” and because most people used this pronunciation. He added the “Doctor (abbreviated Dr.)” to his pen name because his father had always wanted him to practice medicine.

So whether or not you heard Horton’s Who or salivate over his breakfast suggestion of Green Eggs and Ham, take a moment and say Thank You to the one main character to whom millions of kids have related to for years, Dr. Seuss.

The Shadows: a Short Story of Ghastly Gatherings

Today is a different kind of blog post. I’m using it to introduce my newest piece of short story fiction. It took me a longer than expected amount of time to complete it, but I finally did. Hope you enjoy it!

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Welcome! This is a profile in the macabre. It’s a short story about a family who lived in the 19th Century. They lived a rather normal lifestyle back then, aside from a few setbacks in life. They’ve survived but not in the way you might expect.

Introducing the Graybeers: Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan and Priscilla Graybeers, and their two children, Tony and Stephanie, ages 14 and 16, respectively, at the time of death. Tony was shot in the head while Stephanie was downed by an ax. Back in 1862.

Mr. and Mrs. Graybeers committed suicide, each at the other’s hands. In 1863, following a tumultuous year of mental anguish over the loss of their children. It seems mental illness takes its toll.

Looking back, they were a typical northeastern suburban family, college educated, upper middle class, sports-minded.

In present day, they’re like most other families of similar ilk except for one thing: they can disappear. Oh, yes, one other thing: they don’t really have human form; they’re not ghosts, they’re shadows from their former life. They even live in a mansion called The Shadows, which is near a cemetery.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-cemetary-by-jaroslav-gebr.jpg
The Cemetery by Jaroslav Gebr

Aside from select social occasions, the family rarely leaves the Shadows. The mansion has been in their family for centuries. And the location next to the cemetery has always been a family favorite, so no one has ever thought of selling the property.

Although on rare occasions, an unwitting realtor will appear at the door only to be “greeted” by Mr. Graybeers himself. But being a shadow, he really can’t be seen so the realtor leaves his card and walks away, seemingly unaffected by the opening and closing of the door — by itself.

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To Quote is to Speak, to Listen, to Learn!

The subject matter may vary. The speaker may vary. The quote may still be memorable no matter who says it. Keep that in mind when reciting any one of the quotes below. It will make for a memorable occasion.

 

Advertising becomes a dialogue that becomes an invitation to a relationship. — Lester Wunderman, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Thinking about ourselves isn’t related to knowing ourselves. — Lauren Esposito, arachnologist, co-founder of 500 Queer Scientists

Nothing comes merely by thinking about it. — John Wanamaker, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Regardless of the moral issue, dishonesty in advertising has proved very unprofitable. — Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Attract attention, maintain interest, create desire and get action. — E. Elmo St. Lewis, member, Advertising Hall of Fame


Rules are for people who don’t know what to do. — Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I don’t like closed doors. Creativity flourishes best in an environment of open doors and open minds. — Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is. — Fairfax Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.