Marathons versus sprints.

How do you feel about the gamification of creativity?

You know:

All night work-a-thons.

Two day hack-a-thons.

“Let’s have a creative sprint!”

“You mean doing the work in a really short space of time?”

“Yeah but if we call it a ‘Sprint’ we can sell it as a thing!”

Maybe I’ve just had my share of working all night and having no time to think it through, back when we just called it ‘working all night’, without the fun title.

Clients love them, we’re told, because it feels like they’re getting some extra value. Plus they can be exhilarating creatively if you’ve been part of one.

I have, and it kinda was. Like a ‘tough mudder’ for creatives.

But it was also a bit unfulfilling. Like a take-away meal, it can leave you feeling peckish around midnight for an idea with more noodles. And despite all the terribly-modern-ways-of-working-trendiness of it all, if anyone has ever produced a truly award winning idea in one of these brainstorm-a-thons, I’d like to know what it was.

The other problem that arises is one of scale and creative curation. Yes, you get creatives from around the network blistering out scamps and wild ideas and clients can see lots of work on a wall. But how did we get from the halcyon days of Michelin-star advertising when agencies like CDP, Lowe Howard Spink and GGT presented one idea to a client because it was ‘the right one’ having thought it all through because that’s our added value, to providing an all you can eat buffet in 24hrs.

As conscientious agency creative people, surely generating ideas is only half the job? the other half being crafting and choosing and pressure-testing before we are sure it’s right for the brief and the client.

I actually sat on a jury once where the case history film was all about the ‘hackathon’, as if that was enough of a creative departure for the work to be inherently great. I don’t remember what it was for.

(BTW a top tip for your case history is that nobody cares how hard you worked on the idea- just how good it is).

I guess I feel my job isn’t a game.

Personally I’d rather have a pencil, a pad and a partner and then chew it over for a week. Maybe two.

I’d call it a ‘Marathon’, two creatives and a couple of weeks – the wonders you could create!

Coming up with ideas is hard enough and impressive enough (if the idea is impressive enough) that turning it into a circus act kinda belittles our craft. Is that too self-reverential? Don’t care.

I’m not your dancing pony.

I need a good nights sleep to think of stuff. And to sleep on it and then to reject it in the morning. And then to maybe think of doing it another way and then go full circle back to where I started.

Plus, sometimes a good idea, hell the best idea, can hit you at the gym or on a bus or mowing the lawn (only one of which I do regularly).

Nevertheless there are some professions when this would be really useful and I could definitely get behind.

“Mr Caporn, this new bathroom project of yours looks like it’s keeping you up at night. So we’re gathering the best seven builders, plumbers and electricians from around the world in what we like to call a ‘bog-a-thon’ and by morning we’ll have your new bathroom makeover ship-shape and in perfect working order”.

Hang on, I’ve just had an idea for a TV show.

Wait, in the best tradition of advertising I’ve just realised it’s already been done.

2 thoughts on “Marathons versus sprints.

Add yours

  1. Haha. Well said. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s yet another way the creative process is being slowly devalued. I’ve always felt the same about “brain storms”, nothing of any quality is ever going to come out of that either. Keep up the good work.

  2. ‘Creative Sprints’, ‘Hack-a-thons’! What on earth are people thinking. Well, their not. These are events thought up by those that don’t know what the creative process is, or it’s value and likely never will. I suggest anyone invited to join one says, ‘Yes, of course. It will take 2 weeks from date of signed creative brief.’ That’s how long it takes to ‘create’ work of value.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: