Why being a creative doesn't automatically make you creative

Many years ago, a prospective client told me that creativity was a commodity. As a young buck I didn’t get the gravitas of that comment but as a bitter old agency guy I now do - and it burns my soul.

First, let’s start with the term ‘creative’.

In the real world, the dictionary explains it as:

cre·a·tive - [kree-ey-tiv] -characterised by originality of thought; having or showing imagination: a creative mind

In our industry we also refer to pieces of work as 'creative' whether it be a print ad, EDM, display banner, website.

We also refer to the people who create these works as creatives'. These are generally the sneaker wearing, t-shirt rocking folks that listen to brand new electronic devices on oversized headphones peeping through black rimmed glasses.

So did my client mean that the creative executions were a commodity or was it in reference to the people? Sadly, he could have meant both.

This brings me to my point- creative is not creativity. Be it in print or human form.

Very few people, and therefore the work that they produce, are truly creative. It’s the same way that playing the guitar doesn’t make you Jimi Hendrix.

There are too many in the industry who talk the talk, churn out some ‘creative’, get it signed off, buy the new iPhone and earn the moniker of ‘creative’.

It’s the consumers who are left to deal with the fallout of the average campaigns that are signed off by clients – which are becoming easier and easier to block from their existence.

A truly creative EDM is not just an EDM. The same way a Ferrari is not just a car. A truly creative banner is not a banner, the same way a Patek Philippe is not just a watch.

In a society that is so driven by brands and material possessions, I find it hard to believe that these same people can go to work and totally throw that value set out the window.

Owning ten Hondas does not get you a Ferrari, no matter how much of a ‘good deal’ you got. At the same time, putting together these Hondas doesn’t make you Enzo Ferrari.

So the next time you ask a ‘creative’ for some ‘creative’, or as a ‘creative’ you’re asked for some ‘creative’ please think about what you’re really going to produce.

Are you prepared to put another, cheap, beat up old ‘Honda’ into the market, or are you going to market in a brand new Ferrari?

The choice is yours - and trust me; your consumers will thank you with results and your boss will thank you with bonuses.

The writer is Tobias Wilson, managing director of @ccomplice

*The opinions expressed in this article are the writer's own.