Not, as you might initially assume, a sanctuary for blind deer; The Land of No Ideas is a place I invented early in my career as a creative.
No Ideas is populated by three kinds of creatures:
1.Humans and beasts who would have lived within concepts rejected by clients who lacked the courage to give them life.
2.Humans and beasts who have yet to be exposed to the potential of rejection (in other words, ideas which have yet to find a client).
3.Clients themselves (although only those guilty of imprisoning too many of type 1).
Picture the scene, as I often did as a young creative, in The Land of No Ideas when a client is confronted by the very characters he or she could have brought into existence and given to an audience.
First there’s the denial; “I really liked it, but in the end it wasn’t my decision.” Then the vain attempts at rationalisation; “I just thought you might alienate more than engage.” And finally the acceptance; “Okay. Okay. So I didn’t have the balls!”
Often when a client asks for the ephemeral “Big Idea” what they actually mean is “I’d like an idea as big as my balls.” And if you don’t learn early on in your life as a creative to recognise how big your client’s balls are, then your future disappointments will be diametrically proportionate to their lack of bottle.
We creatives are often accused of being bloody minded about our ideas, of being intransigent, precious. These are all essential skills in a world where everybody believes they have a right to question your concept even when you’re all - apparently - working from the same brief.
They are defence mechanisms, protection from the naysayers, from those who block the way to the real decision maker - the client.
That’s why I invented The Land of No Ideas because despite my own bloody minded intransigence I refuse to be precious about ideas. Why?
Because “If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.”
Now I’m not quite as Buddhist about it as Paul Arden (“quoted”) - I’m more Taoist in my approach. Simply casting off ideas like unnecessary materialism may be good karma but it isn’t necessarily good business. Retaining an appreciation for the past, for history, as the Taoists do, means remembering the ideas you gave away and sometimes giving them a chance for resurrection.
I hoard ideas after I’ve given them up and The Land of No Ideas is the place the best of them go. From ideas set in rest homes in the 2040s to suicidal aliens who teleport as they die, my Land is full of the grand, the insane and what I believe are Big Ideas.
My advice for any young creative who berates themselves or others when the client doesn’t choose “the right route” is to cherish that concept and to save that idea for someone who will love it and bring it to life.
As Mr. Arden says “They’re not your ideas anyway, they’re someone else’s.” What makes them unique is the life you breathe into them and the client who actually gives them existence.
In fact, the greatest insight I can offer a young creative in the spirit of the “Knowledge Bank” is to consider the client as an essential and positive component in the creative process. This is the benefit of maturing and experiencing enough presentations, pitches and tele-cons.
Often painted in the negative role of judge, jury and executioner, clients are not just the commissioner that ignites the engine and potentially dowses the flames of inspiration. They are the driver of the car powered by your ideas and they need to feel in equal measure - confident in its performance, proud of its styling and warm in the glow of perception which others project based on the attention that vehicle generates.
Whether a client is a multi-national or a challenger brand the decision on creative is always subjective, intuitive. Yes research and planning are essential to substantiate why a route will “talk to the target” but all your ideas should live up to that requirement - so which one should the client choose?
Ultimately it’s the one they like. The car on the lot that resonates with their own world view in relation to their brand, their sweet spot and their own targets. What they won’t voice, however, is “the confidence factor”. How much chutzpah they believe they’ll need to convince their own colleagues, their bosses, their stakeholders or even shareholders, to pay for their new set of wheels.
So remember. The next time your “Big Idea” is made to feel small, when a client doesn’t choose “the right route”, perhaps you should have considered the client as the driver in a metaphorical sense.
Sure they look to creatives to deliver the muse and sometimes they lack the nerve to follow through. But then sometimes even the best prepared ideas - those you believe match a client’s balls perfectly - are shunned for lack of bottle, on the day.
And if they don’t choose “the right route” then perhaps they belong in The Land of No Ideas.
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