Some opinions on opinions.

In my first job real creative job our head of art would often say “opinions are like arseholes. everybody’s got one”.

Although crude you have to admit an insight is an insight. This one has stuck with me and, while being of limited comfort, it has at least allowed me some reflection when agency life becomes tiresome.

Because there may be many reasons on any given project that explains why work is a bit run of the mill. Lacklustre creative talent or lack of ambition being the most obvious, but from a creatives point of view, knowing who to listen to and knowing who to ignore is somewhat key in the process.

So here are ten excellent opinions (IMHO) on the opinions you are most likely to hear in this game.

  1. Too many opinions

That moment when the client says ‘I like it’ but I need to check with all the people involved (Stakeholders) to check if I actually like it. What you often get back is a spaghetti of new ‘suggestions’ and observations that is like you had your whole street come and comment on your bedroom decor. This extends the ‘creation’ period because of the amount of brain capacity it takes up knowing what to rebuff and what to take seriously. If your campaign is global encourage them to form a small group of country representatives. This allows them to show inclusivity while spreading the blame if it all goes tits up.

2. Not enough opinions

It’s easy to blame creatives for tone-deaf work and the latest Samsung Night Owl ad is a case in point. Who else but an all-male creative team would put a woman running alone at night in a city with headphones, right? As if the male creatives got the brief and went off and made something entirely on their own. I find it impossible to believe that no women had an opportunity to point that this is was not a great idea (conceptually or otherwise). What is more likely is that it was pointed out many times but the team ignored the advice and went ahead anyway. So if you are appealing to a certain demographic and you aren’t that demographic, chances are you may need advice. Show your work, seek insights, because some people see what you can’t. Most importantly – LISTEN.

3. The wrong opinions

Research in pharma is often like a slow motion road accident and creatives are often like paramedics getting to the scene, through rush hour traffic. Someone will always be there to offer their expertise, without actually having any expertise. (I am not that interested in an endocrinologist’s art direction skills). Why do you need all that white space? well you let us worry about that clever-dick, stand back please.

4. Opinions too late

You’ve just finished the website, put the finishing touches to the creative and suddenly you get a call that we need to remove half the image/copy/idea as someone senior (in pharma usually a medic or lawyer) has seen it and it can’t go out like that. The art director is on holiday and so the intern is looking at it. This just needs a fanatical dedication to making sure it’s gone up the line early enough.

5. Opinions from on high

The same person who said it can’t go out like that is also someone no one is allowed to talk to and wouldn’t have time to discuss it anyway. These are the people you need to identify early on, seek them out and get someone in front of them.

6. Opinions from on low.

I dunno, but sometimes the client’s intern or most junior brand manager has the most ideas about how advertising works and how you should do your job. In this case you must welcome their college-based-wisdom, while treating them as you might a student, become their mentor, guide them and have more patience than you thought possible. Praise their ideas – exalt them when it’s a good one and gently dissuade when it’s a right stinker. That’s all I have. Usually they are impossible.

7. Opinions too soon.

It’s a rough idea, I know the branding isn’t right. It’s a shot I stole off google images and comped in to a stock shot thats why the casting isn’t right. In these cases just nod and pretend to take notes.

8. Opinions from collaborators.

When you are making something always be open to organic changes. It takes courage sometimes to adapt while on the hoof, so to speak, but directors, photographers and animators know their business. Listen and they can make your work fly higher than you imagined. But always shoot it the way you agreed first. You know, to cover your arse.

9. Opinions from the past.

If you are a creative you need to have an encyclopedic memory of what’s ‘been done’. Nothing will get your work dismissed faster in an awards jury than creating a campaign that’s already been out there. Even if it’s just really close. But most importantly who wants to retread old ideas? Scan old awards annuals and Cannes ‘love the work’ or ask that bald headed guy who’s still nailing it- he’ll probably remember.

10. Award jury opinions

Juries are, by and large, worthless too as it’s usually too late by then anyway. Do the best job you can for your client and don’t worry about what anyone else might say when faced with it on a judging panel. If you truly believe in it someone else will too. And if it doesn’t win, so what. You saved the world, or a life maybe, which is the main thing.

Finally, there is your opinion.

Have faith in it, base it on experience and vision. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to fail. Every now and then it will pay off.

Now….back to that judging panel…

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