Let’s Get Integrated
Each and every day, we strive to create the very best product possible – not just for our clients and those who judge our work but, more importantly, for ourselves. We are all perfectionists in our own right; after all, each project we undertake is a testament to our own conceptual ability.
One source of creative inspiration that I find myself drawn to time and time again is Chopped on Food Network. For those who haven’t watched the show, four chefs of various years of expertise compete to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert – all with a mystery basket of mandatory, nonsensical ingredients as they race to get everything on the plate in 30 minutes or less. Each round, one competitor is “Chopped” as they are judged on taste, creativity and presentation. In the end, one chef survives to win $10,000.
As a whole, we convince ourselves that one of these subjective benchmarks outranks the other, but who are we kidding? The real question is: Did our dish move the dial?
Did our thinking and execution change the way that our clients do business – or how certain ingredients are perceived or will be utilized moving forward? If not, then what good are taste, creativity and presentation? Remember: Success is measurable.
The rules: To make each ingredient shine and marry them all in perfect harmony.
Simple enough, right?
Certain ingredients – much like certain people who we encounter on a daily basis – are more difficult to work with than others, and they take more finesse or a variety of techniques in order to be incorporated properly. Harmony – or rather, integration – is the key. In the end, it all comes down to what you brought to the table. But whether you’re putting the finishing touches on your meal or wrapping up your pitch, you must get everything on the plate.
We watch as junior creatives go toe-to-toe with Chief Creative Officers and as small shops battle global agencies. We cheer for the underdogs – the pastry chefs – as they pit themselves and their integrated thinking against the iron chefs of the world – the award-winning crowd favorites.
These chefs are hungry for their prize, but much like us, they’re even hungrier to prove themselves to their expert judges, the world at large, and to themselves. For these chefs, the prize isn’t just the money; it’s their pride, their Clio, their Lion, and their Pencil all in one. It’s the justification that proves they chose the right path in life.
As we begin to brainstorm or concept, we seek inspiration from every corner of our psyche. Whether it’s a distant memory, a recent event or even a simple conversation, our “Aha!” moment can strike in the blink of an eye.
But before you dive in headfirst, think about why you are where you are. What makes you and your idea unique – and how do you harness that key difference?
Whether you’re staring at an empty plate or a blank canvas, the rules remain the same. Much like a Chopped basket, creative briefs often contain limited and seemingly absurd mandatory ingredients. Aside from the brief, our experience and imaginations are the only other tools in our creative arsenals.
But regardless of what’s been made available, our task remains the same: To make something inspired that not only makes our client smile and bestow praise (and approval), but something that makes our judges envious, wishing that they had thought of our unique methodology and, in the end, the delicious results.
We begin with the appetizer – the strategy – to whet the appetites of our judges, giving them a small taste of what’s to come. Then comes the entrée, the tactical executions that prove to our evaluators that our strategy wasn’t landed on by sheer luck; we’ve thought this through.
And for dessert, you ask?
Well, that would be the look, the eye candy. This three-course feast serves as our integrated campaign.
As daunting a task as it may be to come up with “the big idea”, too much fear can imprison our imaginations – while a little bit of fear keeps us honest. Ignore your adversaries; focus on the task at hand. If you have time left over, chances are there’s something else that you haven’t thought of – some minor-yet-crucial detail that you may have overlooked. But that detail isn’t so minor when it becomes the difference between winning and losing.
If your dish or concept doesn’t cut it, you will not be moving on to the next round. It’s an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, as we strive to repurpose and transform our ingredients – and to avoid the expected.
In both advertising and the kitchen, Murphy’s Law is written in stone. We learn at an early stage in our careers to become chameleons, able to predict problems and solutions as we adapt on the go. Time is a luxury that we don’t have. Sometimes the stove doesn’t get hot enough, other times the script’s budget gets reduced and you have to find a new director on the fly.
Anything can happen.
You can never look back and dwell on regret. You must move forward knowing that every effort is a learning experience. No matter how far you go in your career, you should always maintain the perspective that you are a student of the world.
Pursue knowledge with relentless hunger.
The moment that we stand before our judges, we recall all the sacrifices that we’ve made to stand at the precipice of success. And we ask ourselves: Was it worth the blood, sweat and countless tears? We question everything because it’s in our nature.
For the underdog, it always feels good to take down the undefeated champion – but no matter what end of the spectrum you’re on, make sure that you celebrate your win with a sense of camaraderie, honor and most importantly, fun.
If you lose sight of why you are where you are in the first place, then you shouldn’t be there at all.
As creatives, we strive to reinvent the wheel, to do something to gain the attention and recognition of our colleagues and the world at large. We are on a never-ending quest to prove ourselves time and time again. Next time you find yourself seeking creative inspiration, look to the unexpected; you just might find exactly what you’re looking for.
The clock starts now.
- by AWSC
- posted at 10:26 am
- August 8, 2012