creative thinking Archives - The Professional Creative

February 4, 2021No Comments

The Super Bowl Diaries

One year ago, I was lucky enough to have one of my ideas make it to the Super Bowl as a commercial for the Toyota Highlander. And I documented my whole experience as a creative in a video log. Welcome to Super Bowl Diaries.

In this series I tell the good and the bad. I'll let you judge if it got ugly.

As I grew up in my career, I always looked at those Super Bowl commercials, those super productions, as a world apart. I was always curious about how the creative process happened in those projects. But not the PR-sanctioned behind the scenes crap – I was curious to know what it was really like for a creative to make a Super Bowl spot.

So, when I got my shot, I thought it would be a good idea to document the whole thing. The successes, the disagreements, the difficulties. But especially the feelings. And this is what I put together to share with those who might have the curiosity I once had.

To start with, this is the commercial we made, which aired in Super Bowl LIV in 2020:

Toyota Highlander "Heroes" (2020)

The finished "Heroes" commercial

When you see the finished 60 seconds of the commercial, it's hard to imagine that the process started more than half a year before the air date. So, let me start you off you all the way back to mid-2019, around the time the idea was born.


Episode 01 - The Winning Idea Explained

In this chapter, I talk about the idea we pitched, and how we presented it. I analyze its strengths and weaknesses and talk about why it ended up being picked amongst hundreds of ideas.


Episode 02 - To Celeb or Not to Celeb

Should we use a celebrity? In this episode I talk about the pros and cons on using a celebrity in a Super Bowl ad. Best of all, my present self gives the answers my past self was looking for.

Hindsight is so awesome.


Episode 03 - Picking a Director

In this episode I talk about the importance of choosing the right director, and how that decision is really not as straight-forward as it may seem.


Episode 04 - Keep on Writing

In this episode I talk about how we're not done once we sell an idea. And how we have to keep improving on the work all the way up to air date!


Episode 05 - How Much Can You Fit in 60 Seconds?

In this episode of The Super Bowl Diaries I talk about enriching the visual storytelling through art-direction. To delight the audience and enrich the story.

I also look back into a difference in opinion we had with the director. Whose opinion prevailed? And why?

Once again, hindsight is awesome.


Episode 06 - The Shoot

All is told in this episode! The race against the clock, the compromises, the clash of ideas…

Shoots are tough. Especially when you consider you're probably making the biggest TV commercial you're ever going to make. But just like any other shoot, stuff never goes as planned.

Sometimes you have nice surprises like we had on day 1. Sometimes you have to power through it, like we did in all the other days.


Episode 07 - Post Production

When the shoot is done, we're not done. We're just starting. In this episode I talk about the long and iterative editing process, and how you can sometimes get in a rut when you've been living and breathing the same script for months.

I also touch on color, and the work we did to make each scene have look like specific movie genres.

And hindsight confirms, once more, that idea is king!


Episode 08 - The Curveball

In this episode I talk about the time when things could absolutely have gotten ugly! After we were pretty much done, life throws the biggest curve ball I've experienced in my career.

And we have 48h to make major changes to the spot, or we run the risk of not airing at all.


Episode 09 - Post Super Bowl Blues

Why are we creatives never satisfied? Why do we always compare our work to other people's? Why do we sometimes feel shitty after big achievements?

This episode is deep! One day after our Super Bowl commercial aired I sat down to examine all the different emotions I was feeling. It seems after a great high, comes a great low.

All creatives have to deal with feelings of envy, frustration and resentment. And we have to deal with our infamous creative ego. It's part of our life. But how do we learn to live with these feelings? How do we make peace, and use them to fuel our creativity further?

I share here how dealt with these feelings throughout my career, and how I deal with them nowadays. Which is quite an improvement. 🙂


Episode 10 - Hindsight (finale)

This is it. The season finale! One year later, I look back and go through the biggest lessons I took away as a creative, as we cenceived, produced and delivered a multi-million Super Bowl spot.

What does it feel like, one year later, when you can count with the gift of hindsight? Did the things that bothered me then still bother me now? Did the details I fought for mattered?

Some of the lessons are pretty obvious. Others won't be what you expect.


I hope my sharing of this journey helped you somehow. Or at least entertained you.

I truly believe in sharing the things I learn in this business – which often feels counter intuitive. Ad culture is still very much about hiding ideas from others and hogging credit. And that's the part that needs to change, because it's killing us.

If you want to check out some other lessons I've shared, check out The Professional Creative on Instagram.

If you want to go even deeper, check out this Masterclass on creativity for ad creatives I created with the help of some of the best creatives in the world: Striking Creative Gold.

Let me know what you thought of this whole shebang. Leave me a comment below, or get in touch!

Cheers.

Leo

July 26, 2018No Comments

Graph: Creativity vs Discomfort

We all need to constantly be reminded of this one simple fact, even if creativity is our daily job. Even walking in every day with the mission to create can become comfortable – and that's something professional creatives need to watch out for. We may fall into the trap that is believing that if we come in, learn the ropes, rinse and repeat we'll be creative forever. Comfortably.

That's far from the truth. Because creativity requires discomfort.

I like to define creativity as the act of using your imagination to bring into the world something that wasn't there before. I stress the last bit that refers to originality – because if you make something that already exists, you're not being creative, are you?

creativity vs discomfort chart

Chart: Well, there is such thing as "too much discomfort". Try to find the sweet spot, not the point of no return.

Originality is an absolute pre-requisite for creativity, because creativity lies only in what didn't exist before you created it.

And that's the crux of my point with discomfort and creativity. Read more

March 13, 2018No Comments

The Brainstorm Is Not Dead

There's a lot of buzz around brainstorming not being a thing anymore. This Forbes article is but one of many debunking the myth of brainstorming being great for coming up with ideas. But guess what? 70 years later, brainstorming is still around. And for one reason:

It has a very cool name.

Alex Osborn, the man who invented brainstorming, didn’t get everything right, but the name “brainstorm” was certainly a home run.

alex osborn

Alex Osborn, the father of Brainstorming, asking for ideas over the phone.

Since the late 40’s when Osborn – who happens to be the “O” in BBDO – gave brainstorming to the world, his creation has been scrutinized, debunked, evolved, changed and re-adapted. The brainstorming techniques used today by IDEO and other creative companies are so different from Osborn’s original process they should not be called brainstorms. Yet, they are, because no one wants to let go of that supercool name.

Would you rather tell your wife/husband when you get home that you took part in a “brainstorm", or in a group idea-generating session?

“Brainstorm" for me, any day of the week, please.

Many articles today that debunk brainstorming still take as reference Osborn’s model, which was flawed. There's plenty of science out there to prove it. Many better ways to come up with ideas are at our disposal. Heck, telling everyone just to have ideas on their own works better than Osborn's brainstorm. Yet, it was the starting point to all the knowledge we have today on idea-generating. Fact is, nowadays, "brainstorming" has come to mean "generating ideas" – either in group settings or individually. To which there are many different techniques – some of them have nothing to do with the original brainstorming from the 40s.

Osborn got a few things right, though, besides naming it “brainstorm”. Here are my 3 favorites: Read more

December 5, 2017No Comments

The 3 letter question that kills campaigns

Whole advertising campaigns have been killed by a single question. And it's happened to me.

We were so sure we'd sell that concept. We could already see ourselves shooting the commercial in the Caribbean, laughing out loud over piña coladas paid-for by the client. We made a kick-ass presentation deck. We rehearsed the presentation. We made sure the visuals were tip-top, and in line with the target audience. You know the drill: edgy enough to be impactful, but safe enough to get the client's approval. This was gold!

We presented the campaign to the CCO. And he always asks this one tiny, tough question. After we finished presenting, he said this:

"This is beautiful. I see you guys put a lot of effort into it, and it shows. I really like the idea. Thank you for that... but, WHY?"

A little awkward silence follows.

He meant "Why is this the right idea to solve the problem? Why did we choose to use a walking-talking piñata to sell the product?"

We hesitated. When we answered, the answer wasn't clear. And we knew that meant the idea wasn't right and there was only one place our campaign was going. "Where's the recycle bin?" was my question. We had to start over.

How could we have missed something so basic? So simple? Often times, when we get into the weeds of the creative process we can lose sight of the big picture. Suddenly that joke about candy falling off a living piñata didn't make a lot of sense anymore, even though we were sure it was killer.

Let's explore how questions can save campaigns rather than kill them.

Questions make your mind go places

Questions are a big part of the creative process. They both set you in the right direction and give you freedom to explore multiple possibilities. Asking the RIGHT question is often the difference between success and failure in professional creativity.

It's the question, Neo. It's the question that drives us. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did. – Trinity

Questions that set you in the right direction

Framing your problem in a way that fosters creativity is a VERY important step in the road to originality and innovation. And the best way to do it is with a question.

"A problem well framed is a problem half solved"
- Charles F. Kettering, Chemist

IDEO, the legendary company that pretty much created the "design thinking" process, puts great importance in framing the problem in ways that allow creativity to flourish. Problems are always posed in a question that begins with "How might we..." For instance, "How might we help people achieve their personal goals?" or "How might we make an ice cream parlor the perfect first date venue?"

This quick PDF from Stanford d.school (created by David Kelley, one of the founders of IDEO) will give you an idea on how to create actionable questions.

Questions that help you keep going when you start to lose momentum

Starting with a "how might we" question should get you churning out ideas. For better performance, apply brainstorming rules. You will eventually slow down, though. The more ideas, the better – so what can we do to keep us going? This great article from Fast Company gives a great solutions. They all involve asking questions. Here are a couple of techniques it mentions:

Change the point of view
Ask yourself "how would a child approach this problem?". What about a senior? Or an expert? Or a poor person? A rich one? A farmer? A sailor? Each different perspective will force your brain to switch gears and uncover new insights and ideas.

A similar technique to this is called the Six Thinking Hats, created by Edward de Bono. It's about forcing a perspective change according to 6 different perspectives, represented by colored hats. A lot of people swear by it, but I find it too stiff to be used in the day-to-day of professional creativity. You can find out more about it here.

Why, why, why, why, why.
Asking why is a powerful little thing. It can make and break careers! The power of "why" lies in helping us break the perceived notions we have about how things are. It exposes the "hidden rules" we are subjecting ourselves to for no reason. Genius comes when we deliberately break those rules.

"We make the mistake of assuming that the way we do things is the one right way. For example, we believe that specific types of clothing are appropriate for different occasions, we have preconceived ideas about how to greet someone, and we have fixed ideas about what should be eaten at each meal of the day. However, a quick trip to China, Mexico, Pakistan, or Korea reveals completely different norms in all of these areas."

Another great way of to keep going is to keep asking "what else?". That keeps the train moving. Loosing traction again? Ask "how else?" – that should take you in a different tunnel in the same mine to unearth more ideas.

The boss question

Since 2009 and Simon Sinek's TED Talk on the "Golden Circle", this 3-letter question has picked up more and more attention. "Why?" is the most important question one can ask. Ask it enough and you'll get to the core of an idea. Fail to have an answer to it and be ready to start over.

The important thing is that you must remember to ask yourself the hard questions. Why? How? Why? Why? Why? – you don't want to be in a place where you find yourself in a meeting without answers for all the why's. Because if you can answer all the why's, you'll probably sell that idea. If you can't, you won't. Unless your CCO and the client want to go to the Caribbean, too.

Share your story in the comments. Have you ever been put on the spot by a well-placed question?

November 20, 20171 Comment

On Creative Confidence, Clay Horses and Dragon Fruits

"I'm not the creative type"
or
"I'm just not a creative thinker"

Statements like that are not based on reality. Saying that is like saying you don't like broccoli before you try it. Or dragon fruit, for that matter: It's weird-looking, it doesn't resemble any other fruits you've tried before, and it seems to have been designed by a child.

So it must not be for you.

Even though it may taste like a mix between kiwi and happiness. But creativity, unlike that happy-looking fruit, is something we have all tasted. It's something we were born with.

Yes. We were born creative. That's the main argument in Sr. Ken Robinson's TED talk (the most popular TED talk ever – so it must be true, right? :)) and I hope this idea is more widely accepted 10 years later.

The sad part of the argument is that it implies our creativity is taken away from us as we grow up. We start to learn and to comply, and we started building a box around us. Now, learning from earlier generations and from each other is the crux of human evolution, but sometimes unexpected side effects happen. Here's an example: Read more

June 11, 2015No Comments

A Shortcut To Ideas

One day I showed the image below to a couple of American colleagues. It shows a few "caboclos de lança", a carnival character very specific to a small region of north-eastern Brazil, where I'm from. They wear magnificent hand-embroidered cloaks, carry a white gillyflower between their lips and wear those amazing sparkling oversized wigs. Not to mention the massive spear they swing around.

The first comment I heard was about how much their shoes resembled Converses.

Maracatu Rural

When exposed to something alien, our first instinct is to try to find a connection to something we already know. That's our way of making sense of the world. We will (unconsciously) try to use previous experiences to better understand new ones.

This concept can help us understand both how ideas are formed and how communication can be optimized by leveraging this fact. Read more

October 2, 20142 Comments

How the new Apple headquarters will boost creativity

Apple, considered by many the most innovative company in the world, takes ideas seriously. More seriously than anyone else, probably. Apple's future headquarters is proof of that: it has been designed with creativity in mind.

applehq3

The building, described by Steve Jobs as "a shot at being the best office building in the world", has been conceived in such a way to incentivize the exchange of ideas among employees of different departments and divisions. Read more

September 20, 20141 Comment

Creative Technique: Chance Creativity

push for eureka
Chance can inspire great ideas. It's the proverbial "Eureka" moment. Most of the times, though, we don't have the luxury of waiting for chance to strike. The real world is full of deadlines and sometimes ideas need to come on demand. Wouldn't it be nice if we could somehow force random events to bring us ideas? I believe we can.

Chance creativity can be turned into an idea generation technique. It has worked for me many times. Here's how it works:

1. Remember the last time you've been somewhere you had never been before.

It can be anything: the last time you met someone new, or visited a new museum, or when you experienced a new part of town. You can also create a fresh new experience: go have lunch somewhere you've never been before. When we experience something new, we become more sensitive to the events around us. We can take advantage of that state and use those experiences as a starting point for creativity. Read more

September 13, 2014No Comments

Are Luck and Creativity one and the same?

In a previous article I wrote about the invention of Velcro and how the idea came to be. It touched on taking inspiration from nature's designs, but there's another side to that story I'd like to explore deeper now: the relationship between luck and creativity.

When George de Mestral – the inventor of velcro – noticed burrs stuck to his clothes, he did not dismiss the fact. Something that could be brushed aside as an insignificant event in his life ended up becoming the starting point of his legacy. Why did he not ignore the burrs, like most of us would have? Was it luck?

According to Dr. Richard Wiseman, "lucky folks – without even knowing it – think and behave in ways that create good fortune in their lives". Dr. Wiseman ran an 8-year-long experiment involving self-proclaimed lucky and unlucky people. As it turns out, only a small percentage of good or bad outcomes in our lives is a direct result of chance:

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

– Dr. Richard Wiseman

Dr. Richard Wiseman

A man of luck

Read more

SCG-Master-key-visual-final05x

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