Realism VS Idealism – In regard to philosophy, it’s an age old conflict – a constant struggle for balance between the imaginative child (idealist) and the pragmatic adult (realist). But it applies to advertising too. Advertising is comprised of these two contradictory concepts. Creativity meets business. And good advertising finds a balance between the two.

There are pros and cons to being an idealist, and being a realist. As an idealist, you can let your imagination and romantic dreams of grandeur soar without limits, unbound. But that child-like sense of wonder can sometimes result in all fluff, and no real action.  You aim high, sometimes so high, that you don’t attain anything, and you crash and burn. The realist is practical, accepts the reality of limits, and works within them. But the realist may run the risk of, not running any risks. And without taking risks, boundaries remain unbroken. You may be able to grasp what you’re reaching for, but it’s only at an average height, and your accomplishments may be lukewarm at best.

Among the many ways advertising can be considered bad, or so-so, failure to push boundaries is one of them. Remaining overly pragmatic will get you nowhere. If you stop taking risks, you stop learning. If you never push the limits, you’ll never create innovative work. However, creativity needs discipline. It needs a rational, yet open-minded voice to tell it what’s good and what’s bad. Otherwise, you’ll ending up with something like this Lincoln Auto Insurance ad, and no one wants that.

So, how do we do innovative work, without crashing and burning? First of all, that’s probably why the Creative Department is separate from the Account Department. But more than that, we must be realistic about our idealism (never-mind the paradox). Good advertising finds a balance between the two. It creates remarkable work, (or as my advertising professor used to say, “big-sky ideas”) that the agency can be proud of, and at the same time, it benefits the client in some way. With the realist on your left shoulder and the idealist on your right, try to give each an equal opportunity to be heard. And if you strive to approach each situation with this balance in mind, then you are on your way to creating remarkable advertising.

– Andrew

Creativity – The Wild West of Disciplines

The creative process can be a messy game. You brainstorm, conceptualize, toss papers in the basket, get frustrated, and sometimes it either leads to a good idea, or you may end up with nothing at all. But there are also times when it hits you like a ton of bricks and you develop that great idea within the first few minutes of brainstorming. This is why the creative process can be so unreliable. So what the heck do you do?

Veterans of the creative process, whether it be in art, music, writing, design, advertising creative etc. may develop their own strategies for being creative. It’s all about what works best for you. The more experienced you are with creativity, the more you develop those little idiosyncratic personal strategies or rituals, and the more efficient you become at turning out great creative work. There is actually a defined creative process that may be helpful to some. You can read more about each step here.

The Creative Process

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Implemenation

But for the most part, creativity is not something that can be easily defined or taught with ease, if at all. It’s buried deep in our brains and individual imaginations; and there’s no clear path laid out for getting there. We all possess this path; it’s just that finding it seems to be easier for some. But the more frequent we venture down that path, the more we familiarize ourselves with the route. So if I were to give someone advice on how to be creative, I’d say, grab your machete, and start cutting your own distinctive path. Once you’ve made some progress, the pathway to your creativity starts to open up. Add business, a deadline, and certain creative parameters to work within, and you’ve got advertising.

– Andrew

5 Reasons We Love The ADDYs

Addy_logo2Last weekend was the ADDYs, which means a bunch of marketing folks got dressed up, hoped to win an award or two, and generally celebrated each other’s company in the process. We at ADwërks did the same, so we figured we’d share with you guys a few reasons we enjoy the ADDYs so much.

1) Marketing, Advertising and Production People Unite!

The people of South Dakota’s marketing and advertising community (co-workers and competitors alike) all come together to celebrate really good work. Coexistence at its finest!

2) Fantastic Work (and Lots of It)

The ADDYs show off a smorgasbord of the region’s best work in numerous formats, which makes it truly inspiring to see the creativity coming out of this state.

3) A Look At the Legends

Each year the SDAF gives away a Creative Legacy Award and a Silver Medal Award. The Creative Legacy Award highlights creativity and celebrates the careers of the people who are the backbone of our creative community while the Silver Medal Award is “the highest honor bestowed upon an advertising practitioner by his or her peers.” Yeah…it’s a big deal. And the speeches are usually pretty fun too.

4) Sometimes Your Friends Win

This year ADwërks was thrilled to see some of our close friends and favorite agencies win ADDYs for their work. It’s a blast to work with—and occasionally compete against—folks who produce award winning stuff.

5) Sometimes YOU Win

As happy as we were to see friends win, we also didn’t mind winning a few ADDYs ourselves, including a Best of Class award and a pleasantly surprising Volunteer of the Year award, which was given to the agency as a whole rather than an individual for the first time. As our Certified Advertologist Jim Mathis said, “I was tickled pink by the ADDYs this year.”

All in all, there were plenty of reasons we enjoyed the 2011 ADDYs, and these were just five of them. We’d like to congratulate all of the winners at this year’s ADDY awards and say thanks to everyone in this region for continuing to inspire our creativity and for pushing us to improve on a daily basis.

For a full list of all of ADDYs winners, you can click this link. If you have any thoughts you’d like to add or any other congratulations you’d like to share, just leave a comment below.

-Mike B.

Let The Creativity Flow

Full flowAs a marketing agency, a lot of our success at ADwërks relies on creativity. Other keys to success include hard work, industry knowledge, caffeine, more hard work and a shared love of humor, but creativity plays one of the biggest roles.

The tricky thing about creativity is that it’s dangerously easy to think you’re being too creative. Fantastic ideas get tossed around in a brainstorming session until someone inevitably asks “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something like that?” And with that question, the conversation can head down one of two paths.

The first path is the one we try to avoid at all costs. On that path, the reply to “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something like that?” is “Yeah, but there’s no way that would fit in this budget” or “That would be fun, but you know the client would never go for it.” The discussion comes back down to a more “reasonable” line of thought and creativity takes a back seat to practicality.

Then there’s the other path…the path where creativity roams freely without a care in the world. On that path, the response to “Wouldn’t it be great if wecould do something like that?” is simply, “Why not?”

Two simple words that make all the difference in the world.

Because when you take the “Why not?” approach, you’ll find that the usual “problems” can often be solved with creativity.

  • Maybe a client can’t afford the Hawaiian Escape Giveaway Package, but the team comes up with an equally-as-creative, humorous Local Escape Giveaway Package featuring more cost-efficient deals from local retailers.
  • Maybe a client won’t go for the fully-revamped website, but the next idea is an exciting splash page that achieves a similar effect with less effort.
  • TV spot or print ad concept a bit too edgy for traditional media? Develop a social media campaign around the idea and see where the online world takes it.

Plain and simple, that’s why we love creativity. It’s the best way to solve the problems our clients face. And if we’ve solved their problems, we’ve done our job.

So let the creativity flow. When you do, the solutions should come flowing right along with it.

Photo by paumurp. Thanks!

Your Baby Is Ugly (and Why You Need To Hear It)

Does your marketing look like this?The marketing industry, like most industries, has some funny quirks. One of the quirks I find most interesting is how few business owners and marketing managers really, really want to hear the truth from their advertising agency.

You see, TONS of business owners understand how a marketing agency can help them increase sales, strengthen their brand and all of that other marketing stuff we agencies specialize in. The problem is many of those business owners treat agencies like a servant rather than a collaborative, strategic partner. They don’t need new ideas, they just need people who can keep doing the work “the way it’s always been done.”

Sure, they’ll say that they want to do whatever it takes to “increase their market share” or “build their brand reputation on Facebook,” but they refuse to budge when you point out that their website from 2003 probably needs an upgrade. Or they might insist that they want their materials updated with a new look, new colors, etc., but they demand that you leave the logo unchanged because “everybody knows/loves/has tattoos of that logo.”

Here’s the problem with that approach – a good agency should be hired for its expertise and creativity, not for its ability to keep making ugly brochures and forgettable TV spots.

Unfortunately, these business owners are the people who don’t realize their baby—or in this case, their business’s marketing approach—is ugly. And because no one has ever told them so, they never realize they need to fix it (even though, unlike an ugly baby, a bad marketing approach CAN be fixed). Instead, people just make fun of them behind their backs and the business owners never know there’s an issue.

So here’s our advice to you business owners. Make sure you can trust your agency to be honest with you. Hearing that your baby is ugly might not be your favorite news flash of the day, but it’s better than working with someone who doesn’t have the guts to tell you the truth. Besides, one of these days somebody is going to see your baby and react like this.

Wouldn’t your rather work with an agency that helps you fix the problem before that happens?

-Mike B.

Photo c/o AntToeKnee Lacey. Thanks!

A Full Course (Marketing) Meal

Full Course MealFor those of you who weren’t aware, the head of ADwërks, Certified Advertologist® Jim Mathis, is a bit of a food connoisseur and a pretty darn good chef. In fact, he’s won awards for his various concoctions, so you know he takes it seriously.

So when we came across this great Christopher S. Penn post called “What your dinner can teach you about marketing methods,” we thought it did a nice job of comparing two prominent passions here at ADwërks: food and intelligent marketing strategy.

While we recommend jumping over to his site to give the post a full read, we just wanted to highlight a few points as takeaways to keep in mind for later. As Chris explains (with his emphasis in bold),

“Now ask yourself this: when was the last time you put a spoonful of salt in your mouth? … I’d wager never… We don’t like pure flavors very much. Flavors need to intermingle, flavors need the complexities of foods that have lots of secondary and subtle interactions.

So why, in the world of marketing, do we pursue purity so much? ‘We need an SEO strategy!’ ‘We are going to market just with social media, it’s the future!’ ‘We don’t advertise anywhere except pay per click!’ Why do we insist on pure flavors when the customer we work with every day enjoy and demand complex meals of content, interaction, engagement, brand, and persuasion?”

At ADwërks, we subscribe to this philosophy wholeheartedly. There’s a reason we proudly offer handcrafted marketing solutions. Because we feel it takes the right mix of creativity, strategy, design, relationship-building and all of those other ingredients to make a marketing campaign memorable and, more importantly, successful.

While it might be easier to dump a bunch of salt on a plate, serve it up and expect you to be satisfied, odds are it will leave a pretty bad taste in your mouth. Same goes for agencies that simply want to utilize one single strategy. If your business is only marketing one way (print ads only, Facebook only, etc.) you could very well be missing out on a good number of potential customers. Make sure you’re cooking up a tasty, strategic marketing mix if you want to get the best results.

As Chris sums it up (again, his emphasis):

To the best of your ability, to the practical limits of your budget, serve a multi-course dinner as often as you can instead of bowls of single flavors.

That’s some delicious advice if you ask us.

-Mike B.

Photo by Hong, Yun Seon. Thanks!