5 creative rules you should break

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When I started out as a copywriter and a professional "creative," I had a list of rules I followed in my head. Not my rules, really, but guidelines I'd adopted as gospel from industry heavyweights who had published their ways of working and shared their unique points of view on how to approach creative problems. I'm talking about creatives from Ogilvy, Gossage, Trout & Ries, and Luke Sullivan, for example. In other words, people who had already accomplished what I aspired to accomplish in my own career. For a while, those rules served me well. I used them to attack and solve creative problems, and they worked. Except when they didn't.

I kept or adapted some of those rules, killed some, and added others. And these new rules began to work, so I had a new set of rules to follow. They became my own internal gospel. Etching themselves into my brain, they created deep grooves (ruts, even) that I could dependably follow to get the ideas I wanted. And they worked for a while, too. But the world kept changing. Especially the kinds of problems my clients brought to me and the technology that consumers were using. All of this inspired the theory I live by today: Knowing which creative rules to break is just as important as knowing which ones to follow.

5 creative rules you should break

Early on, my career swerved and took me into the digital space. I quickly saw how much the world would be changing and how quickly that change would occur. It was fascinating and different every day. Now, years later, in my current role, I use my creative problem solving skills in the innovation space, helping clients make sense of how they can use new technologies and new human behaviors to drive their business.

That often means ideating solutions without the luxury of a pre-determined format (like a 60-second spot, or a homepage), solving problems that didn't exist months ago, and exploiting new technologies, media, or tools that didn't exist weeks ago -- or inventing new ones as we go. This includes anything from building applications to discovering new ways consumers can interface with an experience. And that means figuring out which rules -- which deep grooves in our brains -- we need to question, ignore, or break.



Carl Hartman
Carl Hartman November 26, 2013 at 4:03 PM


Yeah. We tell our creatives what to do, not the other way around. Creatives want to build stuff to win awards and for themselves. Creative is all about ego.

Rule #2 - "Creative" stuff is rarely the best at marketing. Keep it simple.

The simplest thing is usually the most effective. I have demonstrated to our clients over and over that the slickest and most creative marketing is less trusted by consumers. Your marketing should never look like marketing.

Something I learn as a TV network executive, the best programs we had were pure, well structured stories. Advertising is neither. It's pitchy and rarely trusted.