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Forbidden Love

Posted on March 20, 2012 and read 2,927 times

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pierno Forbidden LoveAdam Pierno
Creative Director
Partners + Napier, Atlanta
Hunting the Spark

By and large you are not the owner of the ideas you are paid to produce. You turn them in and they become the property of the agency, until the point they are presented to a client. Then they become the client’s property.

When we worked mainly on outbound media, this was not such a big deal. You were paid your wage to attack a brief, and you put together a pile of tissues that turned into a smaller stack of boards full of one-way messages. 98% of these ideas die. And it was painful, because as a professional you had trained yourself to invest a certain amount of passion – no, a certain amount of yourself in these ideas. This recent video of a client executing a creative person’s child focuses this metaphor.

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I have worked with partners and creatives who held ideas back. That is to say they decided the creative director would fuck up the idea, or the account team would take the guts out of it, or the client would merge it with another idea from round 2, and so they kept the idea in their notebook. Some said they would bring it back for “another more appropriate time,” “a more understanding client,” “a project with a bigger budget.” But sometimes, they just couldn’t bear to part with it.

Now we work in free space for our clients and it is exhilarating to think with no boundaries. Rarely do I see a brief for a print campaign. We are paid to pour ourselves into the lives of people, figure out how they think about our client and create compelling connections wherever they exist.

If you are a creative paid by an agency, you do not work for a startup. Do not kid yourself. You could stand at the head of the table and present a storyboard for a TV spot you knew was doomed. It may be painful, but you could do it.

Could you present an idea for an app that would generate revenue for your client? Knowing they would either put it on the stack of boards behind the table holding the coffee carafe? Knowing they could take the boards you’ve shared and give it to their “social” agency to execute? Knowing they could very well love your idea, produce it and make millions off of it, and your paycheck would likely not change until you jumped to McGarryBowen in eight months?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you need to get out of this business.

This is, sometimes unfortunately, the job. We create lambs to be lead to slaughter. We create ideas. Not children. We can love our ideas, but we cannot fall in love with them. Am I passionate about my ideas? You bet your ass. Do I expect my teammates to be passionate enough to fight to protect these ideas? Every second of every day. Even after 6. On Sunday.

But this is the deal. Do not be in this business and fall in love with your ideas. You may feel that your idea isn’t appreciated. Or understood. Or properly received. And in fact you may be right on any or all fronts. But the clients’ agreement with the agency isn’t the same as yours. They pay for ideas; end of contract. They typically aren’t contractually obligated to execute or even (dang) respect them. Times are too tough for that. Most agencies are just thrilled to be getting signed checks.

If you are lucky enough to find an idea you love, I salute you. Please, if it’s not part of a brief, carry it to safety, away from your day job and bring it to life. Keep it from your CD. Keep it from the Account Sup. Keep it from the client. Find a team of people who love it as much as you do, and figure out how to make it a reality.

Agencies are, for the most part, not startups. They have an excellent process for initiating and bringing to life concepts on behalf of their clients. Excellent can be an exaggeration in many cases. But ideas not sponsored by a paying client are usually put on the back burner. A distant back burner. Way back. The back-ist. If you are willing to continue to bring forward ground-breaking ideas which address client problems, I encourage — no, beg you to do so. I will help shape those ideas, I will help sell and execute those ideas every day as long as I am lucky enough to have such ideas presented to me by smart people. But if you want to work at a startup, I encourage you to do that, too.





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