Direct Line Blog

Creative Week: off Broadway and far from Brooklyn

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City Winery, Varick Street, NYC. Imagine it full of people.
City Winery, Varick Street, NYC. Imagine it full of people.

Due to creative and unforeseen scheduling changes, the session I planned to attend on May 7, the opening day of Creative Week in NYC, was moved to Brooklyn. Since I arrived at the original venue in Manhattan at the appointed time, this clearly led to a temporal problem in coverage. That's why this blog post is about “Success on Broadway: The Un-Broadway Way” instead of tips on how brands can harness the “super-sharers” of social content with insights from BuzzFeed president Jon Steinberg and Virgin Mobile USA's director of brand marketing, Ron Farris. Sigh.

I like Broadway well enough, but I'm not an insider, so the speakers' multifarious Sondheim references were lost on me. The audience was in stitches so I feel comfortable jumping to the conclusion that they were thoroughly enjoying themselves as I typed.

I am now going to attempt to tease out some bits from the Broadway musical session and relate them back to direct marketing:

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and star of In the Heights, had some writing advice that puts a slightly different spin on the “write what you know” trope: “I write what I emotionally know,” Miranda said. “I can write anything about anything if I'm emotionally connected to it.” A copywriter doesn't always have a choice regarding topic, but I imagine finding an emotional connection couldn't hurt, even if the product one is selling is anti-fungal cream or something. Perhaps you had athlete's foot in summer camp, once? Use it.

  • Jersey Boys writer Rick Elice, who actually got his start as a copywriter in the ad business and spent some time further on in his career as a creative director, thinks it's important to “appreciate the difference between ideas and activities.” People who don't understand that end up spending their lives “doing activities, which means being a means to someone else's end.” Always make room for more satisfying, cool, creative projects amidst the regular bread and butter stuff, I guess?

  • A healthy collaborative environment is as important when brainstorming a campaign as when writing a musical and the temperature of that environment comes from the top. “Establish a 'safe room' where the best idea in the room wins,” said Miranda. Speaking of working together, Elice had this to say: “Collaborating is talking things into existence.”

  • Sometimes the course of creativity does not run smooth, for writers of any stripe. Andrew Lippa, who penned The Addams Family, compared his process to the scene at the beginning of Apocalypse Now when Martin Sheen stalks around his hotel room, at one point punching the mirror in the midst of a booze-infused psychotic break. When Lippa's writing, “the dog gets scared,” he joked. Whatever works.

That's the best I can do.

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