Wake The Town
Stuck in Motion
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

The Value of Resisting Creative Interference


THIS IS THE DAY founder Carl Ratcliffe breaks down how to re-assert the timeless power of creativity within client environments

The Value of Resisting Creative Interference

For as long as I’ve worked in Australia, I’ve heard mutterings about the paucity of Australian advertising. 

On the back of a series of interviews with C-Suiters across agency land, Frank Bethel and I heard many reasons for why; how Australians skew conservatively and struggle to see the joy in creativity unless it’s somehow put to work or applied.

And yet, beyond marketing, we see, taste, feel, hear, and experience exceptional creative output. Australian resourcefulness or tenacity – Robin Boyd called it the capacity to live well, without distraction – bears excellent fruit in all manner of creative agency:  architecture, music, food, film, literature, and art, to name a few.  

In fact, there’s no doubt that many Aussie inventions – the black box, hills hoist, cochlear implants, Afterpay even – are born of an inventive pragmatism. 

Perhaps it’s this gene that inspires our proclivity for marketing science and scientists. We do seem to over-deliver on them. 

Despite our scientists, and if you take something like Cannes as an arbiter, Australia, as a market, is winning fewer creative accolades than ever before for its marketing campaigns.  And creative effectiveness has never been lower either, as much for us as the rest of the world.  

So, what’s the problem? 

It’s easy to blame the proverbial client, brief, or lack of creative mettle available. But the old maxim of a bad workman blames his tools pricks at my conscience, personally, when I play that game.

In my experience of working in Australia, I’ve seen countless, outstanding brand ideas emerge from diverse brains, though far, far fewer getting up. Still, on this author's testimony, there isn’t a talent problem.

And yet, Australia's exceptional creative culture, coupled with its diversity of population, doesn’t seem to dent Australian Marketing as much as it could or should. And my sense is that this gap appears more marked in Australia than in other markets we so regularly compare ourselves to, such as New Zealand, the UK, or the US. 

Possibly this lack of presence is just a lack of confidence rather than intolerance, per se.

Or perhaps it relates to those business leaders who simply don’t care enough to help a stonking idea get up. They don’t seem as bothered by long-term brand value or by marketing science empirics, as those of us who peddle it.  

As one example in many, a career low point featured a Japanese car brand’s marketer telling me with relish, how the word ‘brand’ had been cancelled at board level. Because it confused people. 

I kid you not.

I’m struck that the more we try to engage business decision makers - and that’s simply less the CMO these days given their slight tenure and with so few having a seat at board level - the more we encounter reticence. 

And whilst commercial creativity promises net returns, what sounds like a good theory often struggles in practice. 

Objectively, the great Australian public suffers output that’s more the result of a kind of reverse Darwinism, than creative that should be – given the expertise around brand codes, distinctive assets, mental availability, and the like – state-of-the-art.  

Instead, marketing science obscures the path to anything truly original, a bit like Milward Brown's erstwhile world of advertising norms.  And all the while, Byron Sharp stalks LinkedIn incredulously, acrimonious with anyone saying anything he and his science disagrees with. Whilst a phoney war in marketing between one professor and another plays off, and more creatives win more ‘really difficult to win’ awards than we can shake a stick at, the business decision-makers for whom we create are too busy with other shit going down, trapped in a permanent state of contingency. 

Brand remains a luxury, and there’s no time for luxury when you’re losing customers hand over fist, or your in-store experience stinks, or whatever your latest worry bomb is. 

It would appear the more we know about how marketing works, the less we serve creativity in its most potent, persuasive, and delicious sense.   And I don’t think this is a uniquely Australian problem. Far from it. 

So, I want to implore those business leaders who find themselves entangled with the creative process – to trust in the natural ether of creativity’s culture, to allow it to work its magic; to steal from Quincy Jones, ‘… leave space for God to walk through the room.’  Let the process look after itself with minimal intervention. Resist interference.

The more you rationalise, the more likely you’ll block some unidentifiable quality that would make the idea soar. 

Does this sound naïve?  


It’s well-accepted that creativity is good for business and is well-understood that in and of itself is a hard asset to operationalise – connecting the realms of operations and creativity is something that few master, but for those who do exceptionalism awaits.  

Applied judiciously, creativity improves hard commercial indicators – and this is what the consultancies would appear to be getting right more often than traditional ad agencies, combining operational heft with (acquired) creative flair. Though neither has found an optimum way, consistently, to let creativity loose in client environments.  

For now, we staple models of communication together, ascribe attribution, and codify our learning to appear more scientific than artistic. Because to be merely artistic is too flamboyant, risky, and outlying. 

As a consequence, our creative pool becomes less - not more - striking. And the science of smoke and mirrors thrives amidst ignorance and antipathy. Bob Hoffman is right. Marketing is eating itself. 

The truth is, I have rarely witnessed an idea get better after more, not less interference. If it’s not right early on, it rarely improves with more meddling. 

There remain a few independent agencies, creatively led, who still understand the secret sauce that is creativity itself: Mother, Wieden + Kennedy and Bear Meets Eagle On Fire to name an obvious few.

These agencies hold craft and creativity, not just profit, in the highest esteem.

Clients in shopping mode could do far worse than putting such merit on their list.  

view more - Thought Leaders
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
LBB Editorial, Tue, 06 Jun 2023 01:14:48 GMT