Creativity Might Be Random, But The Pursuit Of It Is Not

PORTLAND–Kell’s Irish Pub, an historic spot in Old Town, is a cozy spot for today’s Portland Ad Fed Luncheon with Professor Deb Morrison from University of Oregon’s advertising program.
Morrison’s new book with co-author W. Glenn Griffin, The Creative Process Illustrated: How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born, was published by How last month, and the good professor is here to discuss the new book in detail.
As Morrison starts her presentation, lunch is served. It’s hard for me to take notes between bites of Caesar salad and lasagna, but I’m a professional, so I manage.
Morrison holds up a mostly blank poster she and Griffin mailed out to award-winning creatives, asking them to illustrate their creative process. The responses that came in formed the basis of the book, which features 35 case studies.
The first case study Morrison shares today is from Kestin & Vonk, the Ogilvy/Toronto CDs responsible for the Dove beauty campaign. Morrison says, Kestin & Vonk focus on solving problems. She also shares illustrations and stories from Simon Mainwaring, Chris Adams, Andy Azula, David Kennedy, Danny Gregory, Ian Cohen and Carl McAllister, Greg Eiden, Mike Heid, Rachel Howald, Hal Curtis, Kate Lummus, Alex Bogusky and Kevin Roddy.
Morrison says Bogusky’s process doesn’t appear in the book because he wouldn’t sign off on the copyright agreement. However, it’s easy enough to explain: “Piss on rules + Piss on Madison Avenue = Good Idea.”
A consistent theme across several of the case studies is despair, fear, panic and frustration. Morrison becomes animated. She says, “This is an optimistic process.” She says knowing you’re going to go there–to a place of despair–and knowing you’re going to emerge from it is optimism, and “optimism drives the creative economy.”
Another consistent process most creatives in advertising share is a focus on input. Morrison says she tells students they can’t just take a few classes on advertising and become creative. It’s a lifestyle and one with a distinct emphasis on soaking up the culture.
“Process is the humanity behind the work,” Morrison says.
I ask if she’s considered what separates elite creatives (and their processes) from the rest of the pack. Morrison says she and Griffin sent their process packets to award-winning creatives only, but that many of the lesser known creatives didn’t bother to respond. Maybe confidence has something to do with being great, Morrison suggests.
Previously on AdPulp: Creative Is Chaos, How Do You Draw That?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.