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creativity column

Don't settle for acceptable. Push for exceptional.

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In 2004, I was working as a Creative Director for an advertising agency called, R.M. Squared. One of our clients was Plantique, a high-end landscaping company. We were asked by the President, at that time, Michael McShane if we could come up with something in support of the company's decision on becoming a sponsor of Musikfest that year. I remember thinking that whatever we come up with should be something that would entertain as well as inform.

I also believed that people who were there to see a show would react more positively if the commercial blended those two elements seamlessly. From those insights, an idea sprouted.

I happened to casually mention one day to John Mulder, the production director at the time, that I thought it would be cool if Robert Plant, former lead singer of the rock band Led Zeppelin, would play Musikfest, which would make Plantique the obvious choice to sponsor that show.

The next day when John came in, the sly smile on his face told me had something interesting to share, "Read this." On the paper, were written musicians and band names that had a connection to nature. Michelle Branch, Buddy Holly, Sound Garden, Rolling Stones, Gun's & Roses, and of course, Robert Plant.

All it needed was a way to tie it all together. I gathered the team, and we started the process. After some serious investment in time coming up with taglines, it began to feel like we had hit a wall. The connection to the band names and the Plantique name was established, what was not so clear was how to tie the whole concept back to Musikfest.

As frustration began to creep in to the process, I remembered a quote from Bob Kuperman, former president and CEO of DDB, and who spent over forty years working in a creative capacity, "Don't settle for the acceptable idea, always push for the more exceptional one." Easier said than done, but we kept pushing forward.

After several hours, I was ready to put an end to it, when Tony Zaino, one of the editors, out of complete frustration, blurted out, "It's like music is in their nature, and great landscaping is in Plantique's." That's what was missing. The package now had a bow on it. The extra time had paid off. The finished spot used the names set against a black background with the first name of the artist or band in white, the other half in green. A hard driving music track was used to emphasize each name as it appeared on the screen. The end screen had the text; Music is their nature, great landscaping is in ours. Simple, yet powerful. Click this link to view the finished spot

Mike McShane remembers seeing the spot for the first time, "'The beauty of the ad was that it blended the brand seamlessly with the messaging, venue and demographic that viewed it. Our clients loved the creativity and how we delivered our tagline through music."

The whole experience taught me that when it comes to big ideas, you must be willing put the time in and let the process work, and not let frustration damper your enthusiasm as you search for your big idea. Yes, good ideas can happen quickly, it’s the exceptional ones that take a little longer. 

William ChildsComment