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Creativity Squared: Why Perseverance Is Key with Jon Laughlin


CCO at Laughlin Constable on storytelling being innately human, why busyness is critical and discovering new ways to feed curiosity

Creativity Squared: Why Perseverance Is Key with Jon Laughlin

Chatting ads while growing up was the norm for Jon Laughlin, CCO at Laughlin Constable. Now, with over 20 years of experience, Jon has developed and championed creative campaigns for a range of businesses over his career from automotive, healthcare, and CPG to motor sports, food and beer. His work has been both nationally and regionally recognised and featured in the One Show, MKE 99 and the Addy Awards. He’s a proud dad of two, ex college football player and award winning Ribfest Champion of Northfield, IL.   


My whole life I’ve been a searcher. Like Indiana Jones hunting precious artefacts, I’m trying to discover new ways to feed my curiosity. This started at a young age when I won a writing contest in the first grade. Even at seven years old, I was questioning existence and the meaning of life. 39 years later, the answer still evades me. But my search continues. 

I’d describe myself as creative, funny, a listener, an empath, moody at times (I’m not perfect), understanding, passionate and emotional. (My wife describes me as a pain in the ass). In my experience, these skills serve me well in different ways. Being creative is one thing, getting the best creative out of others, that’s a different animal. Transitioning from a writer to a CD, ECD, then CCO is an interesting process. What served you well in one role, isn’t something you can lean on in another. No art director or writer appreciates the CCO swooping in at the last minute and imposing their will. And my curiosity has served me well in adapting and changing as my career has progressed. 

I grew up in an advertising household, so ads were on my radar as a child. I’d go on shoots with my dad. It was magic. I knew that I wanted to do that, but even with a father in the business, it wasn’t an easy road. Advertising and nepotism are not good bedfellows. Talent is necessary, but that only takes you so far. The thing no one tells you is breaking into this business as a creative takes a crazy amount of hard work. Then you start somewhere as a junior, and you’re the worst. The hard work starts again. As a writer, I’m never done writing. Ever. End points don’t exist. Someone is always better than you. Perseverance is key.

In college I was an English major. This proved to be a key for me. Studying the greats, being forced to read books, poems and novels I would’ve never picked up otherwise gave me the aperture to define and understand great writing. It also shed light on the transformative power of words. Advertising is a visual medium, but without the right words there is no message, no power. I found myself inspired by the modern giants of the 20th century. Satirists like Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut proved that so much could be said with so little. And Ken Kesey showed me that a little madness goes a long way. They were searching for the same answers I was when I was seven years old. They just happened to be much better at writing about it. 


Make it personal. When I’m looking at or creating work those three words are always in the forefront. Storytelling is innately human. When it’s done right, it transcends the mundane and elevates into something you simply can’t ignore. It needs to make me feel. I need that tingle. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I know something great is unfolding. 

Great ideas are a funny thing. Sometimes it takes weeks of toil, anger, joy, crafting and perseverance only to find out it’s been done before. Other times you mumble something in the briefing and that becomes the idea. It’s the nightmare of every agency CFO. Sometimes an idea can take 20 seconds, 20 hours or 20 days.

Craft is as important as the idea. A great idea may only take 20 seconds, but if it’s not crafted and fully thought out, it can die on the vine. My best work has always come out of collaboration. The idea may happen in a solitary situation, but it can’t come to life alone. Bringing others from the agency or creative department to elevate is imperative. Their collective perspectives and experiences can further unlock the magic. There’s a reason creatives partner up.


Deep down, every creative should be strategy curious. What’s the insight? That’s our mission, and once that’s defined, the treasure chest opens up. I hound strategists. I like to try to get as much info out of them before the briefing. I like my head filled with all the information they know. That way as I’m going through my daily routine, be it getting ready for work, playing with my kids or out for a stroll, my mind is working. Opening yourself up for inspiration at any time and anywhere is essential for me. My best ideas are like a car accident, I don’t know how it happened, but it did. So, I’m always prepared. The notes app on the phone has given all of us the power to always be on, and it’s one of my favourite apps.

From there, I like to take a liberal arts approach. I have an infinite knowledge of useless trivia. Spinning that, it gives me a reasonable ability to communicate in different ways. We’re ad geeks, specialising in nothing is our superpower. Sure, we’re trained writers and designers in a professional sense. But finding that nugget takes something beyond classic training. The training is what allows us to turn that nugget into something shiny. What I’m getting at is, as creatives, we need to have an openness to the outside world. Let it all come in. Say yes more than no, allow every sense to be stimulated. Then let your instincts and gut filter out the nonsense. 



I think anyone who is in the business has heard this - if you work in advertising you get to write off your cable bill. I’ve never figured out how to do that - I still pay Comcast like a schmuck. But it’s funny, watching TV is part of our job. We should get credit! But it’s not just TV. Creativity begets creativity. Being outside of the office, exploring, creating in different formats, having an appreciation of culture, being up on trends and having a constant hunger to be entertained is so important. I have found inspiration in shows like Breaking Bad, but have also had the same a-ha moment reading Kesey’s, Sometimes a Great Notion. Don’t shut yourself off. Open up. Find something new. 

Busyness is also critical. No one likes to be overworked, but there’s a fine line. The best work I’ve seen out of myself and fellow creatives is when they are slammed. Something happens in the brain where a hypnotic state takes over and only allows greatness to flow. It’s like a filter is put up that only allows your best thinking, writing or design to come out. 

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Laughlin Constable, Tue, 25 Jul 2023 15:06:00 GMT