Where's The Time Gone?

Strings wrote a piece for the PRCA the other day on creativity and time, which was really quite thought provoking, so we thought we’d put it on our blog …


Today we live in the 140 character here and now, and everyone expects everything immediately. Woe betide anyone who doesn’t respond to an email with six minutes. But with that pace and with that expectation there is inevitably a price to be paid, and that price I’d argue is creativity (I could write about industry burnout but that’s a whole other can of worms).

Ideas are instant, humans have them all the time and every day, and in agency-land it’s a core prerequisite. But for me, it’s not about the idea, it’s about turning the idea into something tangible and beautiful – and that’s a craft. A craft that requires time. Time to think, time to reconsider, time to recharge, time to finesse.

I always joke about how many truly terrible ads exist at any one time, but I’ve never met a creative or client who states “I know, why don’t we create a really shite boring ad and put it on TV” at brief stage. Yet the wheels seem to fall off so often.

Jo, our Planning Director (who’s spent 14 years in advertising), always talks about the impossible challenge; cheap, fast and creative, and that you can have two out of the three, but something has to give.

From a Below the Line and PR perspective, we don’t even have the luxury of bought media to showcase our mediocrity, and there’s probably even more of it in our industry.

So why is that? Outside of budgets being a key limiter, it’s the lack of time given to come up with campaigns.

There are always those brilliant instances where you crack the campaign idea in the first brainstorm and the team hit a home run early, often we’ll return to our first creative thoughts, but the reality is beautiful creative ideas take time, and there seems to be a worrying trend to ask agencies to develop campaigns in hours and days – not weeks.

If you brief your agency on Monday and give them a week, it’s not seven days (even if you expect them to work the weekend, and you assume they don’t have anything else to do), it probably equates to two days, and a few brainstorms, with the likely output to be at best average work, that disappoints both the client and the agency.

You can spend hours going round the houses trying to find a solution, but the solution’s simple – firstly recalibrate the benchmark for creative pitches, from seven days to 21; secondly for agencies to push back on unrealistic deadlines; and thirdly for agencies and clients to work together throughout the whole process to create beautiful campaigns. As we all know if we’re just left to our own devices we’ll leave it to the last minute, and clients actually have lots of great input that can make the work better.

The Mona Lisa took four years to paint, but in today’s world you could imagine Leonardo being told “hurry up as it’s just a portrait of a woman”, whilst being questioned as to why’s it taking so long.

There are always loads of interesting articles, training courses and cases studies on the PRCA website so what you waiting for.