Monday, October 15, 2012

There are no five minute jobs.

How do you plan time for creative ideas? Although planning is an important marketing discipline, creative ideas do not just pop up to suit a fixed time frame, although a good clear brief can help provide the focus.

At 6.45 am every Monday morning the entire account management team and all the creative staff of the advertising agency where I worked would be assembled for the weekly planning meeting. Open jobs and new jobs would be reviewed and time allocated and work assigned. The planning meeting had to finish by 9am, the official start time and as the hour approached and it once again became obvious it was impossible to squeeze the work required into the hours available so the infamous "5 minute jobs" got shoe horned in. The staff knew nothing of any value could be accomplished in that time, simply opening up work folders would consume most of that. Everyone knew that once again they would be working late!  In an advertising agency back in the 80's and 90's billable hours were everything, but fortunately clients had scant knowledge of hourly rates. Staff were paid for regular office hours, hours they rarely actually worked, hours that were balanced  by unpaid overtime. Of course, once the official work day began more work, often urgent, would need to be squeezed in particularly if the client was important and usually accommodated at the expense of smaller, less valuable clients. 

The so called "5 minute jobs" were those that we knew how to do, exactly what was required and had the skills available to accomplish the task. So because it was a known quantity, the time to do it was under estimated. In the four box grid that identifies tasks according to understanding of the task versus skills to do it, it was in Box 1 - in other words, a known quantity requiring no thinking or planning time. Hence it was pigeon holed as a "5 minute job".

 But unfortunately creativity requires flashes of genius and insight to have the big idea and doesn't easily fit into time slots. Sometimes the creative concept is quickly established, but other times may prove elusive for days. So planning needs to allow the creative director time to brain storm ideas not just execute them. It is this creative process that marks out a successful creative agency from a design agency that just turns out artwork to client request. The clever headline, the engaging visual that a truly creative agency delivers stand out from the ordinary fare the others produce and gets results. 

But it comes at a cost of course. One good creative advertisement that drives enquiries must be better than a load of wallpaper. Often the idea - the key concept - may come quickly. But its value will be far greater than 5 minutes at the hourly rate, like the artist can capture the essence of an image with a few strokes of a pencil it is the years of experience and learning that enables this to happen.

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