Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Work Imitates Art

On a recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, I was pressed by my 5-year old to explain the subject matter in a Picasso painting, Woman in an Armchair. I did what most parents would do; I read the little card next to the piece and did my best to translate. My daughter gave me a perfectly blank look. The painting had missed. Picasso’s signature and immense talent simply meant nothing to her. She dismissed the painting and my explanation and skipped away to examine the beaded moccasins in the Native American exhibit. I lingered in front of the painting for a minute longer. To be honest I was far from enamored with the piece as well… no matter which way I tilted my head. But why the feeling of Déjà vu?

Then it hit me. Clients get that same look my daughter had flashed.

Let me put that into context; they get that look when we miss the mark; when their business objectives outshine our boundless enthusiasm and immense talent. It happens when we miss. It happens when we forget what our job is. In a group of three, it’s usually option number three. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same luxuries as an Impressionist or Cubist artist – we have to sell something for our clients right now. Posthumous success does not work in advertising.

At A/O, we talk about Creative with Accountability. And for the most part, we live by it. On the rare occasion we get a little too artsy, be gentle. Although a particular execution may be off the mark, remind yourself why you hired a creative firm in the first place; to provide you with the product of creativity. Part of our job is to challenge our clients to communicate ideas and express their brand in ways they might not have thought of on their own. Even if we do mix in an occasional “wild hare,” chances are pretty good that options one and two are right on target. As for option number three, you might want to consider hanging it on the wall. Who knows, it might pass for art.

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