We welcome new blogger Dave Bedwood (seen here), who herewith commences his regular column, The Digital Shoehorn (cause he's going to jam a lot of different stuff into it).
A while back I read this quote from the artist Christo "the concept is easy. Any idiot can have a good idea. What is hard is to do it."
Whilst for my own sake I'd take issue with the first part (after all, once he'd cracked the first wrapping idea the rest sort of wrote themselves...) you can't argue with the second.
This quote reminded me of one of my Dad's old friends, "Bunter" as he was known. Not quite as high brow as an artist, a steel trader from Birmingham (UK) but nevertheless a very successful and wealthy one.
My Dad was always amazed by Bunter because he had a certain naive childlike aspect to how he approached business. His intellect didn't get in the way of his believing it was worth having a pop.
I remember years ago he bought a golf course. My Dad and I were keen golfers whereas Bunter would have used a tee peg to pick his teeth. Regardless, he proclaimed he'd create the world's longest snake bunker and have greens that had slopes with a 1/10 gradient.
Away from his company, we pissed ourselves laughing at his lunacy. We'd enough knowledge to know the huge amount of expertise that went into course design. In fact we new just enough to be certain that we'd never attempt such a thing.
Bunter never batted an eyelid. Never rationalized his gut feelings into submission.
He went and built his golf course and his momentum of belief made it a great success.
Which brings me to my digital shoehorn. I'd gamble that loads of digital agencies have powerful, memorable, effective ideas stuck in their bottom drawer. I'd also gamble that just as many actually get to make these ideas, so why in the wider world is the shit work winning?
For me visualizing the whole process from the moment an idea is bought by the client to when it hits the public's screens helps make sense of it all.
Take this picture of KISS in their prime, as a visual metaphor for the great idea that the client has just signed off:
The agency team working on the project has one goal; KEEP KISS LOOKING LIKE THIS.
However KISS are now off on an assault course like no other, traversing research groups, internal squabbles, late nights, late client feedback, change of goal posts, sphincter quivers, panic buttons, server crashes, boredom, hatred and finally antipathy.
So when KISS plops out the other end and onto the publics screens it more often or not looks like this:
It's sort of the same idea just not quite as potent or powerful as it once was.
The real killer though is that normal people, or, as our industry calls them, consumers, only ever see the final picture.
They'll never know about how great you were in those client meetings, all the battles you won, the heroic late nights, early mornings or the dazzling copy change that got the nod from the client right at the last minute.
No, they just see a shite ad, and that's if you're lucky enough for them to acknowledge its existence at all.
The answer is clear. To do great advertising of any kind a Christo/Bunter approach is the way forward.
Both Christo and Bunter had ideas that are crammed full of risk, excitement, impossibility, absurdity, passion.
This has to be our starting point, otherwise there won't be enough in the tank to get the team through the assault course or keep their rational minds from kicking in and derailing the whole thing.
All very difficult in this often risk-averse process-heavy world of advertising. Especially when so much money is made by charging for the very process of risk aversion.
But if we can follow Christo and Bunter to the promised land, our ideas will flourish and we'll walk hand in hand with the client down the fairway where golf bunkers stretch to the stars and the club house is wrapped in cloth.
Dave Bedwood is creative partner at Lean Mean Fighting Machine.