Two down. One to go. I hope you had a chance to read Time, which was the first article of this series. If you didn’t, then continue reading since the three pieces are not part of a small puzzle. Creativity is the second piece and another topic which—just like time—controls and priorities the majority of my life. Whatever you might think about what you’re about to read, you should know, that I’m not going to turn creativity on its head and trying to define what it is and what it isn’t. That wouldn’t be possible in 1,800 words. However, I would like to write about some of the things I embrace and see as defining creativity. Not to mention how it over the years has helped shaped the person I’ve become. I was once a creative student. Now, my current job title is Creative and please don’t misunderstand; I’m still here to learn, not to teach.
Look what advertising has done to itself
Long before my time, you know, back in The Golden Age of Advertising, the skill set of creatives was primarily used to sell products: soap, cars, hats, alcohol, endless packs of cigarets etc. Today, even though a lot of these products still have selling peaks due to advertising, another dimension has been added to advertising within the last couple of decades: goodvertising. This new face of advertising is proof that you don’t necessarily have to sell your soul to work in the advertising industry. Think about it, you don’t have to be the cynical money-driven soulless salesman your friends outside of the industry thinks you are. Naturally, you want to be a great salesman, but sometimes when the work is excellent and created for the greater good, it will automatically sell itself. In recent years I’ve seen my share of case videos where advertising is used to solve problems way more significant than the company’s decrease in sales for that one specific product. For example, here are three examples of clients and agencies who—I believe—genuinely wanted to do good:
If you would like to experience other great examples of goodvertising, you should read and study the book ‘Goodvertising: Creative Advertising that Cares’ by Thomas Kolster. I used this book as a reference more than once during my Master Degree in Creative Advertising.
Creativity is everywhere
Every day, every month, throughout the year whenever I pass a poster, a magazine cover, a piece of packaging, street art, clothing design, a billboard, a bus or whatever I might meet on my way, I analyse it. I look at the typography, the use of colours, the choice of imagery and the overall message. To you, this might sound like a time-consuming process, but in general, it probably takes between two and three seconds to do. I tend to try and figure out what the idea is, what the brief was, how the designer made it, and why he or she made the choices they did. A similar thing happens when looking at logos on wine bottles, pens, shop windows and on smartphone apps. It’s has become such a natural thing that I hardly notice that I’m doing it. It just happens. All of the information gathered from this is processed and either kept or thrown away straight away. I believe this is partial where inspiration comes from. You see things and connect them with other things to try and create something original. Also, I’m still convinced that most ideas and creative sparks happen outside of the four walls of the agency, even though I happen to spend an extensive amount of time at the agency from throughout the week.
Hello Monday made me feel like a little boy
Ever since 2011 I’ve been fascinated by Hello Monday. I see the digital design agency as one hell of a great example of how to run a creative design agency. Through the years I‘ve had my share of beers with a relatively high percentage of the employees/former employees at Hello Monday. Therefore, I see myself as having a pretty solid view and understanding of why the digital agency has been rewarded Agency of The Year six times.
Every time a creative do time sheets, a creative idea dies.
— Partner at Hello Monday
Back in 2015, I was out having drinks with the other half of the junior art director team I used to be part of. We were at a bar in Denmark and were joined by other creatives from Hello Monday, who we both knew pretty well. You know how it goes: beer turned into drinks, drinks turned into shots, and within a couple of hours, we were — for the hundredth time — talking and discussing creativity, awards, future projects, agencies and advertising versus design. Once again, I’ve always admired Hello Monday’s view on creativity, design, clients and not least the way they treat their employees. However, that night at the bar the discussion was mostly about awards, advertising and digital design. The phrase about selling your soul to the devil to work in advertising was thrown around alongside some comments about winning awards. Same old, same old, right? Nonetheless, shortly after I went to the restroom to take a leak. Strangely enough, I chose to enter one of the booths in the restroom where I locked the door and just stood there for a moment feeling completely and utterly fucking devastated…
Spontaneously, I just started crying. God damn. I remember feeling overwhelmed about work, lack of award nominations, industry competitions, acknowledgement, career goals and the eternal hunt to succeed within the industry. It seemed like some people had a less complicated time achieving success, while I felt like I was struggling just to stay afloat in the industry. I guess agency life and always trying to convince yourself that you had a place in this industry mixed with alcohol just got too much that night. Those ten minutes felt like forever standing in the booth trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and what needed to change.
Creativity > advertising + design
There is without a doubt a major difference between advertising and design, but I’ve always thought that the idea and the ability to solve problems were the fundamental elements tying the two creative disciplines together. One of my former lecturers once said: “Design is meant to create a sense of order. Advertising is intended to course disruption!” I find this to be true, but I also believe that when talking about advertising and design, not everything is that black or white. Design can course disruption and advertising can be elegantly designed. Nor is creativity a simple thing to define but below you’ll find a small selection of ways I see creativity as being more than just advertising and design:
Pink Ribbon Germany
A brilliant example of how the idea, the media and the message come together in perfect harmony.
Stranger Things / Season 2
The story took place in 1984. Michael Jackson’s multi-million selling album Thriller was released in 1982. It was a great idea — in 2018 — to combine the famous track with the theme of the series. I find it incredibly satisfying when two great things are connected into something which elevates one thing and gives the other new life.
Swiss Life / Life turns in a sentence
Leo Burnett created these beautiful pieces of communication back in 2011. They are as simple, as they are true.
Ed Sheeran / Supermarket Flowers
Creativity doesn’t have to be commercial. I don’t believe the purpose of writing this song was to make money. It probably did anyway, but I reckon it wasn’t the purpose. The track is a perfect example of how simple —yet original — a track can be considering how much new music is released on a daily basis.
The Norwegian Government decided to redesign the 50-, 100-, 200-, 500- and 1000-krone note which they did exceptionally well.
Pentagram / Leafs by Snoop
Snoop Dogg’s line of medical and recreational marijuana-related products was giving a visual identity. “The challenge was creating a brand that captured Snoop’s unique personality and style. At the same time, it was important that it appeals to a broad spectrum of users.”
BBDO / In Real Life
I’ve watched this film several times. It’s ridiculous how a simple idea can convey such a powerful piece of creativity. Great idea. Beautiful execution.
“If this behaviour is unacceptable in real life, why is it so normal online?”
Esquires / The Passion of Muhammed Ali
The famous magazine cover by Georg Louis is one of the classics. The cover shows the boxer martyred as St. Sebastian, a patron saint of athletes and one who was shot with arrows for his steadfast religious beliefs.
Not only do they have a beautifully crafted website. The work presented on the site is also next level. From We The Fans to YouTube Kids. Years ago I came across a slide deck from Hello Monday containing the statement: “If it feels like advertising, we’re doing it wrong.” That sentence has always stuck with me.
Channel 4 / Meet The Superhumans
I once watched Andy Flemming — group Creative Director of M&C Saatchi Sydney — give a presentation on some of the best TV commercials in his opinion. After showing Meet The Superhumans, he mentioned that he found it difficult to watch without tearing up. He’s probably not the only one.
It’s illegal, and maybe that’s why it’s so excellent. I especially enjoy the stencils found all over the world containing strong comments on today’s society for us to speculate about.
The Steve Jobs Theatre
On September 12, 2017, when Apple opened the new theatre to the public, the presentation began with a dedication to co-founder Steve Jobs by the man himself:
“There are lots of ways to be as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out. And you never — you never meet the people, you never shake their hands. You never hear their story or tell yours, but somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something is transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation. So we need to be true to who we are and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what’s going to keep Apple, Apple, as if we keep us, us.”
One of my goals
With regards to the statement made by Steve Jobs, I find it not only to be true but also surprisingly inspirational. Just consider how many things in your life you take for granted every day. For once the things are not referring to friends, family and loved ones. No, this is about all the other things you also care about. From your smartphone and the app which gets you laid a couple of times a week, to the design of your wallet and the safety features of your car. Someone created all those things, and I’m hoping someday to create something which will make someone slightly happier.
I don’t ever have to meet them or shake their hand.