“How long will three ad campaign concepts take?”
Not entirely sure which century this conversation took place in, but the answer has certainly held up nicely over the years. Two weeks to kick off the project, noodle on it, stress over it, come up with heaps of concepts, decide which three have the most promise (or which three suck the least), make the copy sound less salesy, and design the heck out of it all. Ah, those magical two weeks.
Truth is, two weeks is probably as good an estimate as there is. I mean, come on, the client is paying thousands for this, right? The process should take two weeks. Brilliance shouldn’t happen overnight. The answer must be difficult.
But hey, awesome creative person, when was the last time you actually had a full, uninterrupted two weeks to work on just that one project? Surely your eyebrows are furrowed right now, because let’s face it, it probably never happened. Conversely, with everything else on your plate, you’ve probably had to paw and scratch for every minute to work on that project. You’ve had to buckle down, work through lunches, and focus so hard it hurts to make the very most of each of those minutes. And it’s that right there—that ability to work wonders under immense pressure and within ultra-tight timeframes—that makes you worth every penny. Once you believe this truth, you’ll start trusting your gut more.
Too often great ideas are passed over because they were thought up too fast or seem too easy. Too often the enthusiastic phrase “I got it!” has gone ignored, or worse, patronized. Your gut tells you it’s the right answer, and you trust that in two weeks time, everyone else will see it too. But for now, you humbly set aside that too-fast-too-easy idea, bury it in your desk drawer with all the others, and diligently start working on the next right answer. Incidentally, this is yet another reason you’re worth every penny.
Consider this scenario: You have two identical houses, one built in six months, the other in a year. You’d never pay double for the house that took twice as long to build, right? But maybe, just maybe, you’d pay more for the identical house that took half as long. (Wishful thinking, I know.) Now ask yourself why the first house took twice as long to build? The quality is identical, so what could it be? Too many coffee breaks? Not enough focus? It’s likely the construction team just wasn’t as experienced as the other, so they labored longer and less efficiently.
A smarter, more confident, more experienced team is what clients are ultimately paying their agency for. Focused thinking, big ideas, smart words, eye-catching designs—and gut. They’re not paying for the hours spent aimlessly toiling away on the wrong stuff. It’s our insightfully guided thinking process paired with that intangible feeling of just “knowing” what’s right that’s worth thousands upon thousands to a client. (Even if the most experienced gut isn’t 100% foolproof.) Now, this commentary isn’t about rushing yourself. Of course, exploration is a critical component in the creative process—there’s no denying that—so long as it takes place within the strategic sandbox, and of course, within the allotted magical two weeks.
Our clients trust their gut all the time. Sure, they look at the numbers, but oftentimes their decisions are based on how they feel about something. They may have actually chosen their agency that way, too. Perhaps they’d never admit it, but I think clients do want to know what the head account guy thinks about a campaign idea without looking down at his notes. And believe it or not, I think clients do care what the creative director’s gut tells her will work and what won’t. If it was all about the data, they would’ve hired a robot.
So, awesome creative person, keep doing those things you do: listen, research, invent, play in the sandbox, work through lunch, collaborate, drift off into space, write, design, self loathe, pitch and sell. Just don’t forget to put your gut into it.