Creativity can’t have a 'paint-by-numbers' approach: Bruce McColl

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 25 June 2016

Marketers are too willing to have a “paint-by-numbers approach to creativity”,  reckons Mars chief marketing officer Bruce McColl, who says only by taking risks can advertising get the results it wants.

McColl was speaking with David Lubars worldwide chief creative officer of BBDO, Mars’ agency of record, on the creative process, working with agency partners and how easy it is to “make terrible work”.

The problem is too often marketers view everything as a risk, rather than using brave work to move the dial creatively. It can also have the opposite intended effect.

“The biggest risk from a business performance point of view is putting out substandard, crap advertising that doesn’t move your business,” McColl says.

“And yet so often we’re willing to do a paint-by-numbers approach to creativity. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s easy to fall into being safe and reminding ourselves to take that risk, to be wiling to fail and to put our reputations on the line.

“Only when you do that can you take that necessary step for creating great advertising.”

Lubars says from an agency side, it’s also important to understand that clients bear the risk when it comes to work that pushes boundaries.

For a relationship to work, agencies need to prove the value of brave work to make clients more willing to take the leap.

“It’s like Tourettes in agencies; constantly saying ‘take a risk, take a risk’,” Lubars says.

“You’ve got to understand clients are trained to avoid risk. That is what they do - not risk the business. [We have to] do the rigour and prove that it’s not a risk; that it’s not a risk to be loved, that it’s not a risk to be noticed, and that it’s not a risk to sell more product.”

McColl also says to get the best out of client/agency relationships, it's important for marketers to trust their agencies and not bog them down in the process to the point where it constricts their creativity.

“If we want to imprison our creatives as clients - with lists of mandatories 10 pages long, hierarchies of approval where you have to go through round after round that ends up getting watered down, and operating really in a climate of fear where people can’t do their best work. If you do that and you imprison your creatives there is no way you can get from them… their best work.”

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