Ad Agency Success: What Being Creative Really Means

By Jim Parham, Chief Operating Officer

At Hirons, a successful Midwestern advertising and public relations shop, we have a department officially designated as the Creative Department. This has been a standard practice in the ad biz long before “Mad Men” made us famous, or infamous.

I contend that just about everyone in the communications business, whether media buying types, public relations teams or advertising experts, are, by their very nature, creative.

Carolyn Gregoire, a features editor at the Huffington Post, recently wrote an article on what makes people, well, creative. In her article, 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/creativity-habits_n_4859769.html), she suggests that creative people fail up. Meaning, of course, they are not fearful of failing and are not detoured by roadblocks.

Here’s an excerpt from her article:

“Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.”

She cites Forbes contributor Steven Kotler, writing about Albert Einstein: “Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often.”

While for most businesses, failure is not an option, creative people in the communications business spend a lot of time thinking, rethinking, then testing and redoing a lot of work. Why?  Re-examination and retooling make a better final product.  And, creative communications people are not at all adverse to critical input and smart suggestions to make the work better. Just ask any reporter about how important an editor was to the final product.

While exceptional creative work may not take a village, it requires at least several pairs of eyes to think about the work as the client and final recipient will view it.  Hence, many agencies test the creative work (display ads, television spots or key messaging) on targeted publics before it goes final.

We’ve all heard the statements about right brain versus left brain and who is truly a creative type. Overall, while brain science is important and cannot be discounted, almost anyone can be successful developing a creative solution to a pressing problem. Just ask Rube Goldberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, inventor, engineer and sculptor.