So the most amazing thing happened: I listened to the podcast Song Exploder for the first time, and had a mind exploder right there in the car.
Turns out, musicians are just like copywriters are just like artists are just like business people.
Am I late to this party? Song Exploder goes like this: A musician, usually the songwriter, lays on the table like so much dirty underwear all the decisions, the false starts, the ex-girlfriends, the lucky collaborations, the magic that happened when that chord played with that beat…all the stuff behind one of his or her songs, stripped track by stripped track. Then they play the produced song in its entirety. And then you go, whoaaa. Unplugged did this back in the day on MTV, sort of, but this is smaller, rawer; less of a performance vehicle, more of a vein-opening into the margin notes of creators. Kind of like the war wall in any studio at any marketing or ad agency.
Seems there’s a well-trod path to original thinking, as counterintuitive as that sounds: 1) Tap into all the thoughts and feels, 2) break them down to their very bits, 3) reassemble uniquely, 4) rinse and repeat.
Often the word “creative” assumes the position of noun in this industry rather than adjective–“is Creative coming to this meeting?” “the creatives are all at lunch!” As a writer, it’s a moniker I’ll admit I’m way into, but I’m not certain it’s exclusively mine.
Realtors practically invented euphemism (read: cozy, read: cookies baking during open houses), while Craigslisters can unload empty cans of paint with a well-crafted post. Creativity is rampant in such unusual places and so beautiful to witness.
What’s undercelebrated is the creativity in other parts of our business. Take PR. An app can cut a press release and fax it around en masse. The real pros, after forging go-to relationships with editors and influencers, craft multidimensional pitches. Building a compelling story for a Museum that hasn't even opened yet, for example, takes wit, cunning, a little faith and persuasive gymnastics to land above the fold and be considered across the board in the culture, business, tourism, local and national circles. We did this for the Museum of the American Revolution and got two senators, two governors and Cokie Roberts to attend the ribbon cutting. Similar calisthenics infused the launch of PeroxyChem, a divested company that was seemingly born overnight–or, on our books, in five weeks’ time. Thanks to our team’s unique equation of building confidence in the marketplace while they built a brand in the back room, our client found the softest, eagerest landing possible for a company launch with thousands of eyeballs all over it.
Likewise, developing brand strategies takes creativity in spades. The good ones shoot for uncharted territory. The best ones land on big, leggy ideas and insights others haven’t sighted yet. For Penn Medicine–a brand devoted to bench-to-bed innovation that solves big and scary disease–we helped widen their audience beyond urbane intelligentsia by uncovering what was missing in their message platform: emotion. We found that differentiating (complicated) science gets you exactly nowhere if people don’t know what you’re talking about–and certainly doesn’t help them choose you. Creating the line “Your life is worth Penn Medicine” permitted several campaigns worth of advertising to help people understand why big science should matter to them, a positioning that remains at the center of the brand today.
It was the The Long Winter’s episode of Song Exploder–so incredible, worth a pause here to go listen–that reminded me of the way we broke down our recent WHYY campaign: Too many people don’t know the local NPR radio station WHYY. The ones who do are smarty-pantses. Smart people are already smart when they tune in, so what is this station doing for them? And what is it about radio over, say, the Internet or the suppertime news? Radio is an easy accompaniment to other activities, we reasoned, and the legendary depth of WHYY reporting served to further their smarty pants-ness, equipping them with nuanced points of view every day. Passive self-improvement, we reasoned. Which all bubbled up to the campaign line “Get More Interesting,” in both the imperative and the comparative, as a way to entice non-listeners.
So while the world enjoys songs in their entirety–whatever the genre– it can be even more interesting to consider all those puffs of smoke behind them.
Tracy Thompson is a Creative Director and is looking for other things to explode.