Why Blue-Sky Thinking is a Creative Trap for Agencies

3 min read · 7 years ago


Blue-sky thinking: a creative trap for agencies?

To allow true, ground-breaking creativity, the myth goes, we need “blue-sky thinking”, which frees creatives from the banal constraints of reality. But let’s be honest: an “out-there” idea that cannot be practically put into production isn’t much use to either the client or the agency.

If we map the role of the creatives in the agency to that of the product development engineers within the manufacturing industry, we quickly find some commonalities.

Take, for example, the long R&D journey required for Apple to come up with its iPhone. According to Wired, Steve Jobs started thinking about the iPhone in 2002 – a pocketable device that would combine phones, Internet access, email, and music players.

But it took nearly 5 years for the iPhone to become a reality – Jobs and his R&D team had to wait for technology, and the world, to be ready for the device. When would mobile processors become powerful enough to do what the iPhone needed to do? Were mobile networks fast enough to deliver a portable Internet experience? Apple kept a finger on the pulse of possibility even as it refined its ideas for the device.

Practical creativity

Ideas, whether we are talking about a new product, or the next campaign creative, should not be developed in isolation. It’s not simply a matter of looking good on paper or on the screen – creativity, particularly in advertising, needs to be deliverable – it needs to be practical to produce, in the given time and budget.

Stephen A Ruffa, in his book Going Lean, talked about the link between creativity and production as being much more intimate:

“Simply ensuring that parts can be made is not enough; firms need to engineer products so that they can be smoothly and flexibly introduced into existing operations. This means maximizing commonalities.”

He cited the example of Toyota, whose engineers spend time rotating through different departments and familiarizing themselves with the different aspects of how production and manufacturing is done. As a result, their designs clearly fit within the capabilities and constraints of their factories.

Creativity is tempered and enhanced by knowledge of the realities of production. Ideas may push the boundaries of possibility, but never break them, and creative choices should take into account the need for efficiency down the line.

How agencies can encourage production-aware creativity

While production managers already sit in on client briefings, and are actively engaged with creatives to ensure their ideas can be executed, a more optimal approach would be to factor in production capabilities from the get go.

Agencies can encourage this by:

  • Ensuring that when project leads assess ideas, they put proper weight in considering factors like market needs, value for the customer, and realities of production
  • Keeping creatives informed about the evolving capabilities of both in-house teams and contractors, as well as the impact that their ideas will have on production efficiency
  • Taking feedback from creatives into account when developing future production capabilities – what sorts of technologies do they see as necessary to enable the execution of ground-breaking next-generation ideas?
  • Encouraging creative design that:
    • is optimized for production efficiency measures, like automation and batch processing
    • leverages existing production processes that can be quickly adapted
    • maximizes the use of common parts and assets that can be reused

These same production-aware approaches can be applied to wider business decisions as well: when pursuing new business and markets, look for those opportunities that leverage your existing or projected production capabilities.

But it’s not just a matter of shaping creativity or business decision to production: you can drastically increase your options by improving the flexibility and efficiency of production operations.

Via the use of savvy asset and project management solutions and strategies, and by adopting smarter and faster ways of working, you can build flexibility into your production departments. This will enable the wider agency to offer a diversified range of offerings, allowing ambitious ideas to be executed, and so guarantee continued growth in an ever-changing market.

To learn more about these smarter ways of working, read our free eBook Lean for Advertising Agencies and Production Houses. 

Click to download free eBook on Lean for advertising agencies and production houses

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Why Blue-Sky Thinking is a Creative Trap for Agencies

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