by Andy Capp
Several years before I started writing this column, our sales staff gave me the idea for its permanent title. "...And Make it Real Creative" seemed to end every conversation about a commercial. My handle at the time might have been part of the problem. As Creative Director, the perception was that I was some endless fountain of original, provocative ideas. There were two problems with that perception. First, the actual limits of my abilities. Second (and a much more interesting topic for this column), was that, when it came to commercials, everyone had their own idea of what the "C word" meant.
Some thought that a creative commercial had to have lots of silly sound effects. Others thought it was a string of old, bad jokes or puns. Still others felt a creative commercial needed multiple voices with extra creative points if one of the voices had some goofy accent. I remember one rep going nuts over a "real creative spot" when I put echo on a voice that was supposed to be coming from a basement.
Clients also had their ideas of what creative meant. Having their ten-year-old niece voice an ad seemed real creative to some. Playing background music from their Casio keyboard was real creative to others. The results of these experiments in the "Creative Process" were often ugly and disastrous, but I was the Creative Director and was expected to make them work as best I could.
Like everyone else, I had my own idea of what being creative meant. It included many of those other ideas (the good ones, anyway), but I always thought it began with witty, original writing...all the rest was just window dressing. Oh, and the writing had to be a dialogue to be "really creative." The idea of Theater of the Mind appealed to the actor wanna-be in me.
Time goes by. Positions, locations and opinions change. Full circle back to KELO and now in a position where I need to write those "witty, original words" daily. Yes, I am now part of the Continuity Department, and although I'm still in the production room a few hours each day, my main job is finding the words to put in all the producers' mouths. I still think it's a job that makes production real creative. I'm also finding out that it's extremely hard to come up with all that witty, original stuff day in/day out. I mean, I did my share of writing before, but I was insulated from much of the day-to-day grind 'em out stuff, the paperwork that goes with it, the interruptions that derail any good train of thought one might be on at the time.
Creativity On Tap now means thinking about other people's schedules, slamming it together before this producer leaves for the day or that producer hits the air. Last-minute production was always a pain, but now I have to make the words happen so that others can hurry up and finish the job. Ideas have to come quick. There's just no time to be a Creative Slug. I realize that this is no great revelation, especially to those of you who have been in this position for years, but I've found that it's changing my own feelings about what it means to be creative.
Something I forgot to mention, I used to believe that to be creative, you needed time. Now that I don't have any, I've had to give that one up. I started looking back at the "quickies" I've done that I thought actually were creative, and started wondering what made them work and what made them easy to put together in a hurry. Other than being last-minute works, these spots had much in common. They were all slice of life spots, usually ripped from the pages of my own life, many times from the morning edition of my life, sometimes the Extra from the last hour. Most weren't overly laden with sound effects or music and weren't "hold your sides or you'll cramp up" funny. They were mostly stories, conflicts, the little silly problems we all face; and the clients product or service was the solution to it all. To me, the fact that everyone could relate to the situation, that they could chuckle at a little bit of themselves and maybe find an answer to some minor crisis through the client, that made the ads creative.
Everyone still has their own opinions. The Casios and the ten-year-olds keep coming through the door. The bad Irish accents and tape echoes are still applauded. The important thing is finding a definition of creative that you're happy with, that you can work with every day, that keeps 'em coming back for more...that is effective for the client. When the commercial works, THAT'S real creative!