In retrospect, Harrison has creative answers

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I’ve just read a book.

No, I haven’t been on holiday and I surprised myself, as when does one get the time these days after finishing our social networking commitments, never mind work, family etc? But the title of ‘How to do better creative work’ was too hard to resist for a creative like myself (besides, it was an accessible length and I needed to know where I had been going wrong all these years!)

It contained the mantra of Steve Harrison, a successful creative director and agency founder (he’s since sold and felt the need to write down and share his wisdom, which was a noble thing to do in his free time, when not counting his wealth). The inside back cover blurb states that his agency had set a ‘global benchmark for creativity’ and although I know him, this was going to be an enlightening read.

And so it was. Much of what Steve writes makes a lot of sense, so as a reminder of a lot of the ‘basics’, plus his own infamous, compulsive ways of doing things as a creative director, supported by many quotes from advertising luminaries, case histories and references to heavyweight ad books; I learnt 2 things.

Firstly, much of what I believed about creating and selling ideas was right according to Steve, which is a great relief, but also (according to him) much was wrong. If the latter is true, then how come I have also managed to be a creative founder of a successful DM agency (which also has won many awards, but it seems, not as many as his agency)? We have quite a few different ways of doing things, especially in our creative dept, and I know this is also the case in other agencies in the UK and worldwide (he doesn’t say his book is about producing better creative work just in the UK). Times are changing and it is right to hold onto and remind ourselves of the ‘fundamentals’ of creating and selling, especially in these times, but his retrospective conclusions after leaving the industry should be used as foundations, but not set in stone. The fact that he only talks about ‘creative teams’ does not reflect the collaborative executions of some of the case histories he uses.

Secondly, by reading the book, I learnt the answers to the following:

What is a USP and who popularised the theory?

What did the first banner ad say, when did it appea,r and who was it for?

How long should a direct mail letter be?

What would be an example of a ‘tipping point’?

What is the Pareto Principle as applied to patterns of consumption?

Why should Web 2.0 and the semantic Web be the engine of CRM

What is the purpose of a creative idea?

...and more. So get onto Amazon if you want to find out for yourself, want to produce better creative work, but you have to have time to read a book!

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