The less you know, the better.

The easiest way to break rules is to not know the rules in the first place.

How many times have you looked at a brief and thought you’ve known exactly what was needed, from the moment you read it? I don’t mean the precise idea, but the approach.

You use those short cuts, those familiar methods. You know the client, you know the legals, you know the guidelines.

And that’s the problem.

Part of the joy that I have found by entering Pharmaland is that, frankly, I have no idea what I am doing.

Not a clue.

Okay, maybe ‘didn’t know’ is more accurate. But I am desperately trying to stay ignorant, luckily Pharmaland is the gift that keeps on giving.

That first year on these shores, and to an extent to this day, reminded me of when I had started out as a 24 year old, full of ideas and convinced I was the second coming.

But knowing sod all.

At the time I felt under-equipped, you look at the older members of the department and envy their cool assurance and experience. But now I realise that same ignorance is the junior creatives secret weapon.

Over the following twenty five years I started to know too much.

You see, people talk about burn-out as if creatives are athletes who have reached the end of their physical capabilities. Poor old Reg, he’s all thunk out.


Look at artists like David Hockney or Picasso or even Turner and they kept (or keep) producing genius works of art well past retirement age.

Because ‘burning out’ isn’t about not coming up with stuff, anyone can come up with ideas. Burn out is when those ideas are the same old ideas just regurgitated.

So when you’re new to something you don’t know the rules, which makes it fun. You get to play.

I remember the first ever ‘creative’ job I had was at a now long forgotten agency called Holmes Knight Ritchie. My first visit to the D&AD awards, (with an actual ticket) had me sitting next to the owner and Creative Director David Holmes. He was (and imagine still is) a kindly gentleman, looking rather like a Quentin Blake character, not at all cut from the same cloth as most CDs. (He later became an illustrator himself.)


He said “winning awards isn’t about doing a really great ad…it’s about doing something original.”

Now, you may be thinking..’well duh’ but it hadn’t really struck me before then. I was happy just doing really great ads! (Twizzles imaginary moustache and sits back contentedly)

We could talk about what it is to be original…maybe another time.

But what I can say is that people often get confused about that word.

As John Hegarty writes, he prefers the word fresh.

Because concepts can feature all the things you have seen before. A headline, a picture of a cat or a logo and still be original because it’s all about context and point of view and a different twist. Making new connections and combinations to create something fresh is like music, we all use the same notes…we just need to rearrange them in new ways.

So if you’re that guy or girl who is the go-to person on oncology, get yourself on to a Diabetes brand. If you are writing car ads day in day out, get hold of that Tampon brief.

Shake things up, put yourself in to new territory. Hell, even try designing a product. Everybody’s doing it.

Because it’s not youth that’s fresh, it’s knowing nothing that’s fresh which allows you to break the rules you never knew existed.





One thought on “The less you know, the better.

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  1. Inspiring and beautiful

    Phil Bartlett
    Managing Director
    CDM London 1 Riverside, Manbre Road, W6 9WA London
    p: +44 (0)208 735 8096 c: 07834 618305


    Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

    -Original Message-

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