Why Can't Clients Leave Great Creative Alone?

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BART CLEVELAND: A creative team walks into the conference room with freshly mounted layouts underarm. They have worked untold hours to develop the ideas they now carefully share with others. Every detail has been examined and re-examined. There has been nothing left to chance. The work is superb. Their audience applauds with appreciation and admiration.

Then there is the “pause to reflect.”

A glimmer appears in one observer’s eye. Similar to telling a painter where he has missed a spot, the observer helps make a good idea better by adding that perfect little addition that causes good to become great. Then another glimmer appears in another observer’s eye. Well, I can’t go on because it’s just too gruesome.

Why is creative assistance so irresistible? I’ve heard it said that anyone could come up with a great idea. I think that’s true, the whole blind squirrel-nut thing, but what is definitely not true is that anyone can recognize a great idea and thus leave it be. So they tinker. This requires long-suffering on the part of those who actually create the work. It seems to be the price of admission. But it doesn’t have to be.

I had the alternate experience not long ago when a client questioned some of the design decisions we had made on an ad. I’m not sure he really understood our reasons, because he stated, “Well that’s why we hired you guys. You know what you’re doing.” It was nice to know that our client actually believes we know what we’re doing and understands that he can’t do it. I’m blessed with several clients who feel the same way. They have approved things that seemed risky because they know we believe if they fail, we fail.

I’m reminded of my own weakness for wanting to add the pièce de résistance. I really work to resist the urge to fix something for my team. I have to remember that my “extensive” experience and wisdom could actually result in the work being compromised. That’s why I tell my creatives to fight for work they really believe in. They are not to allow its genius to be missed. They are to help the newness of fresh thinking overcome the insecurity people sometimes feel when they see something they’ve never seen before. New means change. Change is scary. People don’t want to be scared so they try to change things back to the old. I don’t want to be guilty of that. I embrace the pleasure of being scared.

Chances are my greatest contribution will be not to make any.
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