Why Creativity is Exactly (and I Mean EXACTLY) Like Washing a Pig.

In my book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, I propose that creativity is exactly like washing a pig. Because it’s messy. It has no rules. No clear beginning, middle, or end. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, and when you’re done you’re not sure if the pig is really clean or even why you were washing a pig in the first place.

A fellow professor, Tom Laughlon from the Advertising Department at FSU, agreed that washing a pig might make for a good lab experience in chaos and creativity. I extend my thanks to him and his students for this literalization of my metaphor.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

CREATIVE BRIEF: Wash a pig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SARAH, JUNIOR ACCOUNT PERSON: Well, this seems obvious … I’ll just say, “Hey Porky, hit the suds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASHLEY, ACCOUNT PERSON: Mmmmm, he’s not going in. Are you sure a pool is the right approach?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAD, ART DIRECTOR: Yeah, my friend at Goodby did something like this. He said you just gotta … muscle it in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASHLEY: (sarcastically) Oh, perfect. See? I told you the pool idea sucked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAD: No, we just gotta figure out how to keep the pig in the pool long enough to… COPYWRITER IN GREEN SHORTS SAYS: Dudes, seriously, what about my idea of feeding him Doritos? NICOLE (ACCOUNT PLANNER): Hey, I know! What if we used the hose …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASHLEY: Nicole, the hose idea is brill! COPYWRITER: Yeah, but if he gets out of the pool, my Doritos idea might….. JOHN (THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ARRIVING LATE, COMES IN FROM THE RIGHT): Hey, I see you guys love my hose idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEAM: Yay, the pig is clean and…. No wait. CREATIVE DIRECTOR: I TOLD you Chad’s idea wouldn’t work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE REST OF THE PITCH TEAM ARRIVES. (MEDIA TEAM CONFERENCES IN FROM UPPER PORCH, ON MUTE.) AGENCY PRESIDENT: Client’s in the elevators. Where the hell’s my clean pig?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREATIVE DIRECTOR, TO COPYWRITER: Dude. You were right about the Doritos. They distract him. COPYWRITER: Let me just massage some of this copy here and….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNIOR ACCOUNT PERSON: I just love this -- a clean pig. It’s so counter-intuitive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CUT TO THE PRESENTATION ROOM. AGENCY PRESIDENT: And there you have it, gentlemen. A clean pig. CLIENT: Did I say “pig”? Seriously? I meant to say warthog. Can you guys wash a warthog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREATIVE TEAM REACTS WITH THEIR USUAL PROFESSIONALISM.

 

 

 

Why Creatives Shouldn’t Get Married To An Idea. (As explained in an original one-act play.)

Oh, metaphors, I love you so much.

“3 A.M. CALL TO THE PLUMBER.”

(Curtain rises)

WE OPEN ON A CLOCK ON THE WALL. IT’S 3 IN THE MORNING. WE PULL BACK TO REVEAL SLEEPY PLUMBER ENTERING A BATHROOM AS THE CLIENT HOLDS OPEN THE DOOR.

CLIENT: It’s in here. The sink is just totally clogged.

PLUMBER: No problem. Sounds like a hairball. It’s almost always the U-trap.

CLIENT: I’m pretty sure it’s a problem with the toilet.

PLUMBER: I thought you said the sink is clogged.

CLIENT: Oh yes, that is the problem. But I think you reeealllly oughta work on the toilet.

PLUMBER: ______

CLIENT: See, most of the guys in the office say the same thing. The toilet.

PLUMBER: Ummmmmm, okay. But …. okay…. but in order for me to work on the toilet, I’mmmmm… gonna have to go in through the sink’s U-trap.

CLIENT: Ooookay, you’re the “expert.” But I’m pretty sure the hairball is in the toilet and that’s  the problem with the sink.

THE PLUMBER GOES UNDER THE SINK, UNDOES THE U-TRAP AND COMES OUT HOLDING A BIG UGLY HAIRBALL.

PLUMBER: Heeeeere’s your problem. Like I said, it was a hair…

CLIENT: Fine, whatever, now if you will please put that hairball back in the U-trap and check the toilet like I asked.

PLUMBER PUTS HAIRBALL BACK INTO SINK, THEN DECONSRUCTS THE TOILET, WHERE IT’S CLEAR THAT THE TOILET IS IN PERFECT WORKING ORDER.

PLUMBER: Well, it’s like I said. Listen, it’s a little late, and so if you want that hairball out, I can do it now or just leave.

CLIENT: I hate it when you plumbers act like you know alllllll about plumbing.

PLUMBER: Sir, I’m sorry but… I’ve been doing this stuff for goin’ on 25 years and I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a hairball in the U-trap.

CLIENT: Fine. …. Fine…. Just get it out.

PLUMBER GOES BACK UNDER, UNSCREWS U-TRAP, BRINGS OUT THE SAME BIG UGLY HAIRBALL.

PLUMBER: See? This is your hairball. From the U-trap.

CLIENT: (Appraising the hairball, looking at it from 3 different views) Good effort….but that just isn’t quite the hairball I was looking for. I was seeing something more in a spherical shape or more like a capsule shape, you know, sort of like a big pill.

PLUMBER LEAVES

CLIENT: Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE your hairball, it’s a great start. But if you could just show me three other hairballs, I’m pretty sure I’ll know it when I see it.

PLUMBER DRIVES AWAY

CLIENT: (Calling out the front door to the departing plumber) And did your hairball have to have a wedding ring all tangled up in the middle? I mean, what’s that about? Is your hairball married?  Wait’ll Mrs. Hairball hears about this!

Emotion V. Reason

"Spock! Your ads are boring."

In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, I read about a cool new title called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

In a review titled Why Won’t They Listen?, the writer got into some territory that has direct bearing on our craft in advertising. Which is this: a proposal is more persuasive when it is pitched to a listener’s emotions versus their intellect.

Yes, I know this sounds a little obvious, but once you get into the business and start reading the briefs you’ll be handed in meetings, you may start to see this insight is lost on 90% of the ad industry and its clientele. Most of the briefs I was handed outlined logical reasons to believe the ad.

There are probably many reasons for this, but the first that come to mind are these:

Most clients live with their products and believe in them so whole-heartedly they begin to think, “Heck, if I could just get people to listen to all the cool things about this product, they’d buy it. It’s just a better product.”

The other reason is probably that emotional responses and consumer behavior are pretty dang hard to quantify and predict. And corporate America loves to quantify and predict.

In The Righteous Mind, the author puts it this way:

“Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? [It's because] we were never designed to listen to reason. [People] reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later, only to justify what they’ve decided. … Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others.”

All of this kinda lines up with something VCU ad prof Mark Fenske told me a long time ago: “You cannot logic your way to an audience’s heart.”

People are not rational. We like to think we are, but we’re not. If you look unflinchingly at your own behavior, you may agree that few of the things you do, you do for purely rational reasons. Consumers, being people, are no different. Only a very few purchases are made for purely logical reasons. Most people buy things for emotional reasons and then, after the fact, figure out a logical explanation for their purchase decision.

So here’s today’s advice: Trust your intuitions. Trust your feelings, padewan. As you try to figure out what would sell your product to somebody else, consider what would make you buy it. Yes, there are plenty of rational reasons your product is better, but get to the emotion first. Dig inside. If you have to, write the damn strategy after you do the ad. Forget about the stinkin’ focus groups and explore the feelings you have about the product, about the category. That’s where it all happens.