It has been close to 20 years since I entered the world of marketing and advertising. I was always very focused on my career, and at an early age, I thought about pursuing several different professions ranging from being a doctor to a marine biologist to a stock market trader.
By the time I entered my last year at university, I had narrowed it down to the world of advertising. The industry wasn’t something I had considered until a fellow classmate told me about her internship experience at McCann Erickson one summer. The more I learned the more fascinated I became with the industry. Advertising seemed like the perfect marriage between art and business. It seemed glamorous and I thought it would be fun to work with young people in a high energy, fast-paced environment.
I decided I would try my luck on Madison Avenue and after a few months of sending resumes and cold calling, I ended up as an account executive; spending one year at Admerasia, an agency specializing in Asian American advertising. This was followed by eight years on the IBM account at Ogilvy New York. I recently recounted my experiences with a friend, and she playfully asked, “were you the suit or the creative?”. (I was the suit.)
This categorization is a common trope used within the industry. The creatives were often seen as the bread and butter of the agency, responsible for the big campaign ideas. The suits were the relationship managers, responsible for keeping our clients happy (and at bay). This division led me reflect on some myths I told myself about creativity and why they weren’t true:
- Only special people are creative — we all have immense capacity and potential for creativity. This is not something that is relegated to the special few. I used to tell myself to stay in my lane, but in fact, some of the best campaigns from our agency originated as small ideas from account executives or those in other departments, not necessarily big breakthrough ideas from one person or team.
- Creativity is about special subjects — people often associate creativity with art, but we can be creative in all types of disciplines. In the agency setting, there were account executives and creatives, but there were also strategists, digital experts, data analysts, production, traffic departments. In launching IBM Watson on Jeopardy!, one of the biggest agency projects at Ogilvy, we all came together to find solutions for our client, sometimes from our own disciplines, but often it was a full team effort.
- Creativity and intelligence are exclusive — You can’t be antipathetic to learning new skills and disciplines if you want to be creative. You can’t be creative on an instrument if you can’t play it. Similarly, to be a member of the creative department, I would have needed to be trained in graphic design or copywriting. While I didn’t train formally in these areas, I educated myself by asking questions, taking online courses, and learning on the job. This allowed me to provide them with more valuable advice for their process.
- Creativity can’t be taught — This leads me to the last myth, which is that if creativity is not for special people or special subjects and is based on acquiring more skills and knowledge, then creativity is for anyone and can certainly be learned and taught.
Through my own experiences, I have come to realize that we are always practicing creativity, although it might not seem that way. Creativity may ebb and flow, but the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. You just need to provide the conditions for it to flourish.
Reference: What is Creativity? By Sir Ken Robinson
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.