Hungry creatives: Be careful what you wish for

Originally publised in The Drum.

Simple fact: Creatives moan about clients shitting on or watering down their ideas.

We get pissed. I mean, really pissed. We spit venom and sling insults around. It’s no secret.

Very few of us, however, stop, take a step back, and ask if we would follow through and make the work we truly want if there were no restrictions whatsoever.

Of course, you might immediately think, 'that’s the best opportunity ever for a hungry creative! No rules! Fuck yeah!'

Not so fast.

Doing it yourself is all well and good, but there are three major elements to consider: budget, perception, and execution.

First, consider the money at play. Like it or not, we’re a business. Creative serving commerce. Someone’s gotta pay for your kickass idea to be brought to life—and it ain’t you. Sure, if the barriers come down and the client swallows a “Yes” pill, it might seem like life is sweet. However, though they might let you do what you want, they’re gonna put even more onus on you to promise a decent return on their investment.

Don’t forget; they’re answerable to someone too and likely also have young mouths/bar bills to cover. Nobody lives for free. If they trust you enough to completely remove their hands from the creative product and the cash that breathes life into it, then you’d better be bloody adamant it’s a hole-in-one! Otherwise, make sure your resume is up to date.

Then there is perception. We’re not simply talking about launching your giant creative reputation into an industry awash with big names. Rather, what if your idea is just shit? You fought for it, lambasted the client, won, and what came of it was a giant steaming monstrosity that has your name attached to it, Sunshine. Your reputation. Your career. Nobody else’s. Look around, there’s no one you can blame. Still want carte-blanche? Nah, didn’t think so. And if you do, make sure your resume is up to date.

Finally, we have execution.

The client relented. You got your Godzillas and helicopters and explosions. Great, you may think, this is gonna be awesome! Sure, once you’ve navigated the headaches of making every detail work in a balletic choreography of impossible steps. Dinosaurs are a bitch to bring to life. Explosions cost a ton and create loads of collateral damage—even the digital ones. Get prepared to spend months locked in an edit suite with no natural light. You may end up with the SFX you wanted and a 30 second spot that sells whatever in a semi-interesting way, but you’ll be a fucking zombie—mainly because you’re worrying about the previous two elements the entire time. You’ll never want to go through that hell again. So, you’d better make sure your resume is up to date.

All told, some things always sound better than they turn out to be. I imagine getting everything your own way when it comes to creativity in advertising is one of these things. So, don’t get too angry at the client for nixing your prize idea, don’t curse at your ECD for throwing it out. Pause for a moment and consider what might occur if every little thing went exactly the way you think you want it to. It’s likely life would end up sucking.

And if I’m wrong, well, as an ECD, I’d better take my own advice and make sure my resume is up to date.

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