A Bonus Is Nice, but a Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way

A Toast to Those Who Kept the Creative Spirit Alive This Year

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Marty Orzio
Marty Orzio
When you read the brief and the brief is clear, that's not a big deal. And when you've answered that brief, so what? Compiling a fat deck of research? Eh, that's just every day.

When your client is pleased, when she is impressed that you've done so much work, when she compliments the coffee and cookies, it's not that big a deal. When your meeting began by reviewing the objectives, wrapped up by going over "next steps" and ended on time, it is not worthy of applause. When you've delivered the deliverables, included the mandatories, utilized all the equities, big whoop. When all your decisions were sensible, you covered your ass, covered your client's ass, did everything you should do and everything your client believes his or her boss thinks should be done, it's not a big deal.

After the meeting, if you can't, in hindsight, think of anything you could regret? That's merely acceptable. When the creative director doesn't kill the work, the work is merely alive. When you know exactly what it will take to make the client happy, that's not even a big deal.

Yes, we often wish that we could be satisfied with meeting our expectations. Having done so usually takes a big load off our mind, but it shouldn't really warrant the boss's deepest gratitude or instill the greatest pride in the people who create the work.

The thing is, creativity involves a leap in the dark, fundamentally in search of something new, something unpredictable, something for which there is no precedence. But what kind of culture is wired so you feel something's wrong when you're feeling kinda good? What kind of attitude assures that we will find spectacular things when we don't know what we're looking for? What if we were wired to always exceed expectations??

What genuinely constitutes a big deal? A big deal is considering important decisions to be only those that cause people to think and respond in ways they hadn't thought of. When the earth moves, that's a big deal. So is pushing against the gravitational pull of what has worked in the past. It's a big deal that play be more important than predictability, when our greatest service is to service serendipity. It's about not working according to a formula -- all art must, at some point, be an adventure, suspending judgment and criticism to discover something cool.

When working to meet expectations, we look forward to satisfaction from a predictable process that will produce only what we -- and our clients -- have the right to claim. Exceeding expectations goes beyond what anyone can claim, or take away from us. That's why great ideas always feel like a gift or, rather, like you've arrived at a destination that is both surprising and wonderful.

So, let's be thankful for the most amazing and wonderful gifts of all. Why not slip a bonus in the stocking of the account person who got the client to veer off a differentiation map and feel lost, if only for a moment. Let's reward the creative person who invited a planner into the creative sandbox. And, let's toast not only the ideas that were bought, but also all those amazing ideas that weren't -- because we should never forget how precious they are.

Here's to keeping the holiday spirit alive throughout 2011.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marty Orzio is chief creative officer at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham.
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