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I’ve recently been ask to present “The Creative Process” to the local student Advertising Federation. This outlines my 6 guidelines when developing creative. 

1. Be open and observant.

Let’s face it, creative is subjective, people have opinions and yours only matters if you can somehow relate to the person your expressing it to. It’s important to be open to the world of possibilities. This means being open to not only your ideas, but also (urg!) others. Just because the client comes to you with an idea doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. Example: several years ago a client came to me thinking it would be a brilliant idea to display all seven products in one ad. The rational was that it was a new line of architectural products, and architects like to see options (brilliant!). The client felt VERY strong about this, so I concluded there must be a good reason for it, even though I didn’t see it at the time. After a day lost to discouragement I started concepting around the client’s idea. How could we “be creative,” build excitement to launch a new line of products, and basically use an ad to display a catalog? The ah-ha moment came, and I spent about 30 minutes sketching a pencil rough and emailed it to the client. I used the clients basic idea of showing all products in the collection, but took it a step further to answer the overall strategy.

The final objective: To introduce a brand new innovation to the market through clever creative, while showing the vast variety of offerings within the product line. 

2. Know who you’ll be talking to.

When people are set to meet someone for the first time, they do their digging to find out all we can about them, right? Whether it’s a first date, or a huge sales pitch, we’re all guilty of online stalking and asking anyone who might have a clue for insight. If we do our homework, we’re prepared. We know what questions to ask, how to ask them, what their interests are, etc. When you’re developing creative, a good idea is only great if it’s effective, and an idea is only effective if the person your talking to can relate to it. We were recently given the assignment to to promote an upscale retirement community (project of a lifetime.. a career changer!). The “person we were talking to” were not the folks retiring, but their children (55-70). These were the hippies, free thinkers, folks who changed the world, one sit-in, civil rights march and drug-induced Woodstock at a time; but most in this particular geo-location were still relatively conservative. The creative had to be clever, but not offensive. The following is the entry summary that we submitted for the CLIOS.

Afternoon bingo games, Matlock reruns, muu-muus for her, plaid polyester slacks for him, naps, naps, and more naps –– it’s the stereotypical view of senior adult living perceived by many – one that in reality couldn’t be further from the truth for residents of Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s St. James Place. A nonprofit continuing care retirement community, St. James Place sought to raise awareness of its Assisted Living residences among adult children of aging parents, an integral component of the decision-making process in selecting an appropriate caregiver. The St. James Place philosophy of “living life well” is reflected in their commitment to encouraging as much independence, activity and choice in residents lives as possible, combined with providing them opportunities for meaningful social and cultural experiences. Through gentle humor, these watercolor-illustrated print ads convey St. James Place’s spirit of freedom and a zeal for helping assisted living residents to enjoy fuller lives. While perhaps a tad out of character for an actual octogenarian, the depictions are primarily designed to resonate with the target audience of 45- to 65-year-old adults who are at a juncture in their lives when a parent may be in need of an assisted living arrangement.

Objective: Position St. James as an approachable, active and independent thinking assisted living facility that appreciates and respects the residents needs and wants.

3. Know where the creative will be going.

Use your medium wisely to display your message creatively.

The largest Labor and Delivery Hospital in the region needed to effectively communicate when they would be moving, ease the tension of the eight and a half month pregnant woman who has swollen feet and isn’t sure at which “Woman’s Hospital” her baby will be born.

There are so many great media outlets today, both in traditional and digital world. Now more than ever before it’s extremely important to integrate concept with media strategy. Because the primary user of Woman’s hospital are women ages 25 – 35, the opportunities for an integrated campaign were endless, and we used that opportunity to the fullest extent. We painted the town hot pink with billboards that were readily visible across town and coupled that with a robust microsite where visitors could take a virtual tour through the new hospital. Traditional print ads ran in major publications across Baton Rouge and mailboxes were filled with clever direct mail pieces, while during the final move, every step was communicated through a 24-hour series of Tweets blasted out to all of Woman’s followers.

Objective: Create awareness for the new Woman’s Hospital and let the public know when the move will happen.

These next 3 will be quick!

4. Walk in your client’s shoes for a day.

The client knows their business from the inside, it’s our job to communicate their brand from the outside looking in. That being said, I never discount information that the client has to offer. Before I begin any creative project I learn everything I can about the client and their customer. I think to myself, “If I were the client, what would I want this creative to do from a business objective?” The client hires us to do what they can’t.

5. Argue your case.

I’ve learned that if I show that I’m passionate and believe in a creative concept and let the client know that without cussing or throwing things, they respect my consult and begin to rely on it. Especially after they see the creative is effective!

6. Commit to just one objective per piece.

You’ll notice on the first 3 examples shown, the creative is produced using one objective that is summed up in one sentence.

This talk will be presented at 2:30 on March 2nd at the LSU Journalism Building on Campus.