Creative Solutions Takes Time and Experience

The Fastest Answer Usually Isn't the Best

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"Dad, there's a wild animal in my apartment." This is what my son exclaimed to me over the phone at 11:30 p.m., less than a week after he had moved across the country to go to college. I wondered if he was trying to play a joke on me but the tone of his voice indicated otherwise.

"What kind of wild animal?" I asked.

"It's either a giant rat or a baby opossum."

"Where is it?"

"It's hiding behind my TV. Should I call the police?"

"I doubt the police will care about you having a opossum/rat in your apartment."

"Should I call my landlord?"

"It's almost midnight. He won't be up. How did an opossum/rat get in your apartment?"

"I think it crawled through the dryer vent, which if I had a dryer..."



"Open your front door, get a broom, place yourself where the opossum/rat is between you and the door. Self-preservation will do the rest."

"Okay, I'll call you back."

Two minutes later.


"It's gone."

"Good. Tomorrow go to the hardware store, buy some wire mesh and cover your dryer vent."

"I'm going tonight. Wal-Mart is open 24 hours."

"See son, you can do anything when you put your mind to it."


As I hung up the phone I realized how helpless the inexperienced can feel in a time of crisis. When you apply that principle to work it becomes obvious that communication to the less-experienced is not only helpful but greatly reduces their stress.

The same can be said for agencies in general. Even my own non-creative co-workers can push to have solutions more quickly than is prudent. Why? Because they're in the same boat as the clients. Creative problem solving is a strange-looking process. Neither non-creative agency folk nor clients really understand how we do what we do.

In a pinch, they want solutions fast. The problem is, it's fairly easy to crank out an ad. In fact, it's very easy to crank one out that the client will like. It will feel perfect to them because it's kind of what they had in mind. That's why it's the wrong kind of work to do. The expected is expected because it's familiar. Thus, those it is to influence will ignore it. Generally discovering the unexpected solution takes longer. Genius is something developed with time. Sure, there are prodigies but even they need time.

Time is an important ingredient in smarter thinking, yet it's hard to appreciate the need for time when you're on the outside. A professional quarterback throws a football with incredible accuracy, distance and speed, and makes it look effortless. We fans don't think about the thousands of throws in practice it took to perfect his skill. We get upset when he misses the target of a 70-yard pass by a step.

This business doesn't allow for the time we need to do our best. The amount of time given today to conceive of a campaign is probably a third as much as it was 20 years ago. I doubt we'll ever see those days again, but I do believe agencies can find more time. It's important that we do because our first responsibility to our clients is not to be fast, but to be good.
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