Let’s Stop Squeezing the Lemon

Jussi Solja
Feb 22, 2017 · 4 min read

Our brains have been overclocked for too long. Time to install some fans, bring down the Mhz and let the most critical resource we have in our industry breathe again.

Sour Lemon poster by Bangkok Showcase, 2012.

Marketing today is a continuously evolving mashup of creativity, psychology, sociology, understanding of the latest and future trends and immensely complicated webs of interaction in an ever expanding selection of channels all aiming to affect the ever changing human psyche. That’s not easy to describe let alone work on and yet we expect our troops to be able to churn out brilliant ideas after another with little or no rest.

Subconsciously we know it’s not an equation that works but at the same time we just keep on squeezing the lemon. We expect everyone to “work crazy hours” because somehow it’s become the norm in our industry and we really honestly seem to believe that it’s is the only way to those Cannes-winning ideas.

Unfortunately this mentality has mainly succeeded in creating burnt out, squeezed out creatives churning out half-baked recycled ideas and fast-tracked solutions that sort of get the job done but no one really gets excited about. This in turn has driven the best and the brightest talent to freelancing — to taking back control of their lives and saying thanks but no thanks to the machine that is the agency.

We need to change and here’s why.

The brain needs to recharge. This is an undeniable physical fact that is relevant when it comes to all creative thinking from accounting to quantum physics but is especially poignant to our business where coming up with fresh, relevant amazing out of the box creative thinking is at the core of what we sell.

How many of you have had that enlightened moment of clarity after an intense session of tennis or a sweaty run up the local hillside rather than in a stuffy meeting room?

Recharging and “downtime” comes in many flavours. For some it means going for a walk. For others it’s taking a nap, sleeping in late or having the creative session at an art gallery or the local skate park down the road. The main thing is that their brains have the rest, the space to breathe and recharge and the inputs and stimulation needed for the right neurons to fire and produce those kick ass ideas we and our clients want.

We need to let the subconscious mind do it’s job and not hold people accountable for seemingly not working while at the same time just the fact that they don’t seem to be working in the traditional sense might actually be the secret to why they come up with the best ideas.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

I believe we should no longer hype stories of how Crispin Porter + Boguski gave sleeping bags to new hires as the glorious lore of the agency life or measure creative work by hours spent or nights stayed up hopped up on Red Bull and god knows what. (EDIT: With the recent horrible news from Ogilvy & Mather in the Philippines I think this point should be more than clear.)

Instead we should celebrate the fact that the R/GA London office is empty little after 5pm on a weekday more as a rule than an exception but they still win awards left and right for some of the most creative and amazing work on the planet or how Reaktor has been selected one of the best places to work at in Finland for years in a row where people thrive not only as professionals but as people.

What is needed now is a shift in structure, change in environment and a fundamental rethinking of our way of working not only internally but with the clients — a radical change from a factory floor to a more open, flexible and non-linear model that fosters a healthy cycle of sufficient recharge and inspiration that leads to stellar output.

There are some examples of this emerging but as a rule we as an industry are still far from having the guts to blow it all wide open and then reassemble and rebuild something that truly redefines the creative agency.


This is based on my personal experience both from agency and client side. I’d love to hear of great examples where things are done right!

Jussi Solja

Written by

#Digital thinker and doer since '94. Have fought for the Sith and the Rebellion. One of The Sexy Beasts. http://bethesexybeast.com

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