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How to build a culture of creativity

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Gut Feel

How to build a culture of creativity

/ 04:23 AM January 06, 2013

In my 40 years of establishing and managing advertising agencies such as Basic Advertising and Basic Foote Cone and Belding (president and chief creative officer); Publicis Basic (chair and CEO); Publicis Jimenez Basic (chair); and Publicis Manila (chair and CEO), I’ve learned and executed the secrets of success.

I communicated them to the people I worked with. We walked the talk, hit homeruns for all the brands we advertised, experienced deep friendship with clients, and had fun all the way to the bank. Here they are:

Gut feel


Creating advertising can be either an exhilarating process or a listless one for both the agency people and the client, especially if the participants do not share a common attitude in their approach to the creative task.

To make the exercise enjoyable and productive, every participant must be in expedition mode, all eyes and ears for insights into the consumer. Every opinion is welcome. No inhibition. Excited and noisy talk is part of the game. Don’t use jargon. The more homespun the conversation, the more down-to-earth the ideas. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take yourself seriously. Your sense of humor will make you see the most complicated subject in its simplicity.

Most of all, learn to listen to the voice of intuition. It’s that aspect of creative work that seems to defy conventions. It’s gut feel. And as the word says, it’s visceral. Poets, painters, artists and inventors made breakthroughs by following their intuition.

“Breaking the rules” is another game you can play. Or the no-guts-no-glory approach. Or the what-have-you-got-to-lose attitude. Picasso, the great genius painter, said, “Before you can create, you must first destroy.” So have no fear.

To help you along, here are guidelines and attitudes that will encourage you to be more daring, and make the creation of great advertising a lot of fun.

You must view your consumer beyond the quantitatives of demographics and economic class.

You have to individualize her in flesh and blood. You must understand her needs. You must appreciate and anticipate her wants. Bring her close to you until she becomes a familiar person. You’re very much interested in her. You like her very much.

Outstanding creatives get their inspiration from the personality of the consumer. Unless you see her clearly as an interesting and unique person, you will find it hard to establish the chemistry between her and the advertising. The more personal the message, the more effective.


As a creator or decision-maker in the creative process, you have to appreciate early enough that in your consumer’s mind, perception is the name of the game.

Reality is the fact of life. Perception is how your consumer thinks things should be.

It is on the level of perception that the creative person can apply his magic touch. It is perception that greatly affects and thrills human beings.

It is in the area of perception where product values can be made tactile and palpable to the consumer. Images, feelings, symbolisms, moods and aesthetics are eloquent signals of perception.

Today’s consumer figuratively grew up in front of the TV set and the computer, seeing millions of advertising messages all her life. Her brand options are mind-blowing. Her literacy in both verbal and nonverbal communication is at an all-time high. She ignores stereotyped messages and gladly welcomes the fresh and innovative. The more unusual, the more unexpected, the more fascinated she is.

New product technology is available to almost any investor. Real product differences are difficult to achieve. Quite often, only relative differences are difficult to achieve. Quite often, only relative differences are available. Parity is a common denominator.

It is in the advertising that a product can be made distinct in the public eye. It is in the realm of the imagination that a consumer can be provoked and captivated.


Managing by inspiring

Ideas—The business of advertising is really very simple. It’s all about coming up with ideas to grow the client’s business. Without ideas, the business comes to a halt. The constant flow of ideas must be fertilized and nurtured all the time.

People—The key to a successful advertising agency is people. People are the one and only asset. Individuals of different profiles and characters who will be passionately involved in finding, creating, and producing great ideas in a market sell.

Fun—The workplace breeds the creature. The generation of ideas thrives only in a place where people are having fun while at work. Fun means friendship and a sincere desire to help, an appreciation of individual capacities, big or small, to do great work together, to make failures irrelevant, only to be lured again and again by the call of innovations and potentials.

Caring—Work excellence is a result of the high morale of people on the job. To achieve high morale for individuals, teams and the work force, the natural behavior of people must be one that cares and nurtures individuals or groups, in a reach-out fashion from top to bottom or vice-versa, where listening is a virtue, where coaching and empathy balance each other.

Knowledge—All the other tools to discover and create great ideas, market dynamics, deep consumer insight and brand leadership must be invested in, updated and preached.

The ultimate satisfaction of an agency is client delight and market leadership, possible only if ideas, people, fun and caring are harmonized in one heartbeat. The business just follows. It grows and grows because would-be clients take notice.

In exercising control, the manager should not be obsessed with growth and development, but should focus on people, their self-respect, their fulfillment, their contribution and their ample rewards, intellectually, physically and spiritually.

Vision statement

The agency will think, eat, breathe quality. Quality is defined by our clients. In Creative, in Media, in Fiscal and Account Management.

To deliver quality the first time every time. We will only hire people with a strong bias for quality. Who will not compromise. Who will not surrender an inch to mediocrity. People who will welcome the opportunity to improve themselves. To improve the work of their team. To improve their partnership with suppliers. To improve the quality output of the agency.

Quality will be our culture, our work style, our behavior. It’s our commitment to the community. It’s our commitment to our Creator.

We will be a quality team. We will set our business goals together. We will share equitably the fruits of our endeavors. And we will have fun!

Quality will spring from our minds. Quality will seep through our pores. Quality will be our aura. Our clients will see it. Feel it. And they will be delighted.

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TAGS: Advertising, advertising tips, creative, Creativity
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