Blog Insight

Essential Cuts: Creative

No clichés, no nail biting, no prima donnas. Bryan shares essential knowledge for fostering a creative environment, what to look for in an agency, and the value of audience feedback.

Bryan shares his insight on the essentials of creative.

Bryan’s Perspective

Hi, I'm Bryan Cummings, chief creative officer at The Garrigan Lyman Group. Chief creative officer is a big title that really involves helping people be successful with the creative work that they do here at GLG and for our clients.

What I look for when I'm looking at creative work is, “Is it something surprising?” I always love when I am shown something that's unexpected. I think it's easy for folks that are kind of more logical and left-brained to have expectations going into a creative presentation or when a creative concept is being worked on. I certainly have a very practical side, so I get that. When I'm reviewing work, I understand why we ended up there. But when the team comes back with work that's surprising, I love that. That's usually the measure of “we're on to something, we're on to something big” because it's unexpected and it's fresh.

Now, does it also meet the requirements of communicating the right message and achieving the desired response? Usually, it does, but in an unusual way. And that is a great thing, when we get to something that's surprising.

I also use that advice for clients. If they're open to the unexpected—if they almost expect the unexpected—then they are likely to get work that is fresher, more different, and get to something at the end of the day that's really going to stand out in the market.

Fostering a Creative Environment

Fostering a creative environment is really a key thing in any agency. If you walk into an agency, if you have a chance to visit an agency, it should feel creative. There should be an energy and a vibe to it. We do that here, and part of that is just creating a place with a sense of energy, that's fun and supportive, and there's a level of trust. When creative people feel like they can have a bit of a playground to explore ideas and get reactions to those ideas, and then fine tune them based on that feedback, it creates a great environment.

I think having good structure and good process, our project managers are terrific at creating a process that gives us deadlines and milestones—that creates a space where folks can be unbothered by distractions and do focused work—that fosters a creative environment. It gives them a way to work on ideas and refine ideas that are outside and not bothered by email and other distractions that can happen in an everyday office. Creating a supportive and encouraging environment is part of developing great creative work.

And not trying to solve too much right away. When creative work is presented, particularly first round, there's a desire to maybe combine ideas or create a solution that seems logical to fix one aspect of it that may not be working. And oftentimes, that sort of very well-intentioned feedback can lead to work that is, while meeting the objective of the brief, just less surprising and less unique and less interesting. Because it's more straightforward and a little more logical. And so that's a little bit counter- intuitive. The logical mind wants to solve it, but my experience has been to not try to solve creative problems in a meeting or too quickly. Let it soak in. Let the creative folks cook up what the solution might be, and then be prepared to take a look at that and see if it still remains interesting and surprising and delightful at the next round.

The Audience Has Spoken

When we do creative work, we like to get it into market, sometimes with some options and some variables of headline or color or call to action and seeing what works, what resonates, because we learn from that. It's easy for creative people to get really close to the work and not get the audience's perspective on what's working. So unlike standup comedy, we are not in front of a live audience, and so we don't get instant feedback about what's working. But being able to put work into market and test it and then keep going with what's working, trying new things, and optimizing what's most effective, that's how you get to great work.