“Cold Dead Fish” or “Sushi?”
By Jimmy Verrett, Senior Creative Strategist, InVision Communications
“Creative,” (to paraphrase a well-worn phrase), “I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.”
Defining “creative” (as a noun) is never straightforward, but it’s especially nebulous in the experiential B2B space. Some people might say it’s an event’s overall “idea.” Others might define “creative” as the way a meeting theme is brought to life in a ballroom or arena. Others still might describe “creative” as a visual look, a stage design, or an opening experience.
Or–something else entirely.
In truth, creative is all that and more. It’s Emotion. Engagement. Action. Desire. Interest. Craft. Thoughtfulness. Awareness.
It’s the difference between “cold dead fish” and “sushi.” Which would you rather have?
Assuming you’d prefer the latter, what can you do to supercharge the creative output of your agency? Plenty. But let’s start with these six:
1. Articulate clear objectives – for the event, for the experience, for the business.
We’ve found that creative ideas built on clear objectives and sound strategy make the difference between a “just OK” experience and a truly outstanding one. To design and execute a program that resonates with your attendees and positively impacts business downstream, you need to ask yourself a few questions. What are you hoping to achieve? What business objectives do you wish to address through this program? What do you want your attendees to do, think or feel as a result of their experience? A thorough understanding of the “what” and the “why” gives your creative team valuable insights and unlocks their ability to develop a thrillingly inventive “how,” ensuring that the creative output is on-point and purposeful.
2. Formally brief your agency team, ideally in person.
A strong, actionable brief enables your agency team to develop an insightful creative strategy—the real foundation of supercharged creative. Through articulation of program parameters, goals, objectives, audience profiles and, most importantly, the desired downstream actions and behaviors of audience members, we’re able to develop strategic (purposeful) creative themes, touchpoints, engagements and messages that work synergistically to optimize both impact on audience and value of the investment. While we’re thrilled to receive any quality brief – by email, conference call or web meeting, an in-person, face-to-face briefing is ideal. Why? Because dialogue. Because body language. Because relationships. Because teamwork. You’ll read more about the value of collaboration below (spoiler alert!); an in-person creative briefing is the perfect place to start!
3. Understand your attendees.
We believe that individual audience members share three universal desires: 1) a desire to learn, 2) a desire to grow and 3) a desire to succeed. Fundamentally, this is why people choose to attend an event or engage in an experience. As part of our briefing process, we attempt to understand and articulate these motivations within your particular audience and the context of your particular initiative, then use it to inform creative development. By seeing things from your audience’s perspective, you can design engagements and experiences that deliver real VALUE to your attendees. This is when the creative really sings!
4. Provide sufficient time for the idea to be discovered, developed and nurtured.
When will the lightning strike? When will that incredible idea spring forth? Today at 3:00? Tomorrow at 9:00? I wish I knew! What I do know is that much like preparing a good steak, allowing time for everything to marinate increases the likelihood of an outstanding experience. Creative development takes time, but this is business. After all, timelines must be met! We agree – so let’s set timelines that optimize our likelihood of mutual success. How much time is the right amount of time? This, of course, depends on the ask, the project, its complexity and a whole host of other factors, so let’s sit down and discuss it. Let’s arrive at what makes the most sense together; let’s find a way to give sufficient space and time for inspiration to strike, and for ideas to develop, tighten and become truly outstanding.
5. Trust the process.
With considerable pressure to deliver on both the agency side and the client side, demanding schedules and plenty of unknowns, creative development is a daunting task. We both want to “get it right,” and we both feel a strong desire to do so as quickly as possible. But, outstanding creative ideas rarely (if ever!) arrive fully-formed and ready to implement. Initial ideas will nearly always be either too obvious, too weird or too impractical. But—this blue-sky thinking is the first step in the path toward supercharged creative. This process is essential. It opens the mind, it uncovers new areas to explore, it reveals tangents that lead to other fertile grounds. By trusting the process, by recognizing that it’ll be very fuzzy at the start and that’s okay, you add real value to the creative process. The blockbuster idea is on the horizon, but you need to get there organically.
We believe that the best, most powerful creative ideas are developed not in a vacuum, but in close, active partnership with our clients. Here’s why: Your agency will never know as much about your business as you do and you’re unlikely to have the expansive, cross-functional perspective of your agency. When combined, these two perspectives present immense value to the creative process. Your high-resolution line of sight into your company, customers and culture, which can only be gained from living it from the inside each and every day, can fuel stronger briefs and actionable feedback that enables creative infused with an elevated degree of sophistication and nuance; touchpoints and messages that resonate strongly with your audience because you “get them,” and downstream behaviors and actions that move business forward because you know how your business moves forward. Your agency team, on the other hand, can leverage knowledge, experience and best practices gained from working with clients in various categories of business, size, budget, culture and purpose, bringing new ideas, new approaches, new opportunities for engagement and resonance that might be difficult for you to uncover on your own from the inside. These two viewpoints, working in active collaboration and leveraging the strengths of each, are a key to unlocking landmark creative. Collaborate!
Let’s make sushi!
You invest in live experiences to move audiences to action and to move business forward. So don’t settle for cold dead fish! Break out those chopsticks and let’s supercharge your creative!