In this opinion piece, head of strategy, McDonald’s at OMD, Russ Mitchinson writes about what media agencies can learn about creativity from the master of originality, designer Alexander McQueen.
We work in an ideas driven industry, where more often than not it’s adapt or die. Ideas are how we get satisfaction from our role, what our clients pay us for, and how we make ourselves famous. Ideas are behind everything that we do, from innovative media campaigns, to novel sponsorships, to smarter search strategies.
In order to nurture a culture of creativity, we need to learn from the best – and who better than the bad boy of the British fashion world, the late, great Alexander McQueen. Known for his constant innovation, challenging ideas and visual spectacle, he was one of the foremost creative talents globally.
So how can this master of creativity change the way we work day-to-day in agency land? I’ve taken the liberty of writing nine Maxims of Creativity, inspired by the life and work of McQueen (he’d probably have thought they’re a “pile of wank”).
1 Know your shit.
Be technically brilliant. Apply yourself to your craft and don’t be afraid to get ‘on the tools’. Invest your time in constantly learning. To quote McQueen, “I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, which is important before you can deconstruct them.” Don’t try to run before you can walk.
2 Don’t waste time with the mediocre.
Surround yourself with the best; the best thinkers, the broadest range of skills, both from inside the agency and beyond. McQueen worked with the best of British craftsmen and artists, from Damien Hirst and Philip Tracey to Jake and Dinos Chapman. Find your subject matter experts. These are the people you’ll collaborate with, create with and learn from. Ideas need a supportive environment to thrive in, and none of us is as good as all of us.
3 Rip-up the rules.
Know what to keep…and what to discard. As McQueen said, “You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.” Always ask ‘Why?’ and question ‘Why not?’ Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo – it’s the only way change can happen.
4 Inspiration from anywhere.
Be a magpie. Collect ideas from everywhere, the more varied the better. To quote McQueen, “Clothes don’t come from a notepad…it’s eclectic. It comes from Degas and Monet, and my sister-in-law in Dagenham.” Don’t just search for it on Google, get out into the world and throw yourself into the random. Immerse yourself in life.
5 Don’t fear failure…embrace it.
Enjoy the freedom to fail, however, fail fast and learn from it. McQueen’s first show for Givenchy was “Crap”…his words. But there in Paris, McQueen learnt the art of couture, and took this with him back to London, when founding his eponymous House. Try, fail and grow; only then will you know your boundaries and where your edge lies, and always work your edge.
6 Harness technology.
…but not in the absence of an idea. Technology opens-up new possibilities, enabling ideas to happen in interesting and innovative ways. McQueen’s Atlantis show was the first to be streamed live on the internet. However, technology itself isn’t the idea. Too often we think it is. Tech is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
7 Theatre of the Sell.
We need to learn from designers, architects and creative agencies. Bringing the idea to life in an engaging, rich and evocative fashion is what they do every day; be it a computerised ‘fly-through’ of a building, inspiring pitch theatre or the run-way show. From McQueen, “The show is meant to provoke an emotional response. It’s my thirty minutes to do whatever I want.” It’s the emotion, passion and spectacle of the sell which get ideas sold.
8 Dare to be unpopular.
Be provocative, say the ‘wrong’ thing, don’t be afraid to upset and question the norm. McQueen said, “Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places.” Too often we self-censor and worry what others are thinking. This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about getting to the best ideas, fastest.
9 Stand for something.
Have a point-of-view and always something focused to say. As McQueen declared, “I’m a designer with a cause. I like to challenge history.” The whole world stands aside for a man who knows where he is going. If you don’t have enemies, you’ve never stood for something.
If we can live by even one of these maxims in our day-to-day work for clients, colleagues and the agency, then we will think differently, push the boundaries and create a culture of creativity.
In this guest post, Alex Watts (pictured), DDB Sydney Head of Social, discusses his thoughts on the potential Microsoft/Tik Tok acquisition and whether the deal actually makes any sense for Microsoft… Trump is calling for a ban, China’s calling it a “smash and grab,” but the real question is – does buying TikTok really make sense for Microsoft? TikTok is […]
Following QMS’ acquisition of TLA Worldwide (Aust) last year, QMS Sport has today announced it will transition to the TLA brand and formally become a business unit of TLA. ‘Media Tech’ is officially the new name for what was formally known as QMS Sport, and will operate alongside TLA’s existing business units that span the […]
Sydney-based design and technology studio Nightjar have launched a new website for Sneaker Freaker. Founded in 2002, the street culture magazine is the first and only international footwear magazine. From its roots as a DIY-style fanzine to today’s global coverage, its print pages and online platforms document every colab, custom, limited edition, retro reissue, Quickstrike, Hyperstrike […]
Haystac’s former National Head of Strategy, Haylie Marchant (pictured) has launched The PR Toolkit – an online resource and DIY PR platform educating and empowering small and medium sized businesses to do their own PR. Offering a mix of free resources and easy-to-use how to guides, the one-stop-shop for DIY PR covers media relations, media […]
One Love Australia has launched a new social change initiative that will see a raft of high profile individuals, including former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Boost Juice’s founder, Janine Allis, take part in a video interview series set to turn racism on its head. The initiative – titled #ShareThePlatform – will see these […]
Resolution Digital has been awarded the Australia’s Agency of the Quarter award in the prestigious Google Honours program. The Honours program for 2020 recognises the achievements of the very best performance marketing agencies and providers across Australia and New Zealand. The program consists of 3 quarters, 43 agencies and over 500 individuals; measured on account […]
Firefly has brought on six major new clients as it continues to expand, adding new media planning and buying arm to its business. Managing Director Andrew Mathwin (pictured) said the independent agency, known for clients such as Air New Zealand, Buy West Eat Best, West Coast Eagles and Mrs Mac’s Pies, had a strong year […]