Why process is our greatest ally as creatives

Why process is our greatest ally as creatives

There’s an iconic Nike advert by Wieden + Kennedy where Michael Jordan says: “Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God-given gift, and not something I worked for every single day of my life.”

In this statement, he uncovers a truth about not only his fans, but sports fans everywhere; we see top athletes as otherworldly beings who were born to reach the highest levels of their game, rather than humans who worked tirelessly to get there. We are quick to applaud their achievements, but we rarely give adequate recognition to the process behind them.

The same is true of the advertising world. We love the magic of creative ideas and the impact of the final outcome, but, as with sport, we rarely stop to appreciate the end-to-end process behind it. 

Some of us even regard the process as the enemy - the total opposite of the creativity we value so highly. However, just as the right process can help an athlete reach their full potential, it’s also one of our greatest allies.

Here's why...

A process lays out the steps to take

Sub 2 marathoner runner Eliud Kipchoge said if you “follow what’s required and set your priorities right, then you can really perform”. A plan or a process is the starting point of any athlete's training or advertising campaign development. Although one involves incrementally pushing physical abilities, and the other lays out development stages, meetings and approvals, they both outline the essential steps that need to be taken in order to reach the desired goal.

The repetition of a process leads to improvement

Whether you’re talking about weekly or daily repetition, it’s undeniable that the process of doing something over and over again in the right way means you get better at it. For elite athletes, this repetition may be thousands of hours of practice. Similarly, the legends of the advertising world have spent decades refining their craft and way of thinking. In no profession is talent purely innate, and regarding it as such would do a disservice to the hard work of those who practice it.

Process creates change

But doing the same thing day in, day out isn’t enough. Process also allows us to figure out what changes lead to real improvements. If an athlete alters their training method or nutrition, they can only truly measure the impact if the rest of their plan remains fairly constant. The same can be said for creative work. If you truly want to find out what’s effective, you can’t change everything at once. As David Oglivy said. “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

Celebrating all the wins, not just the end result

Finally, appreciating the process also allows you to celebrate all the successes that come along the way, not just the end goal. If a marathoner trains well, gets considerably fitter, but then misses their goal time that’s not a failure. Looking at the process allows them to celebrate their improvements even if the final result wasn’t what they wanted. Similarly, in advertising, we often have many successes in the development process - a strategy that changes the direction for the brand or a great creative platform that will last well beyond the first campaign. It’s important to celebrate and learn from these, rather than just the final executions.

So, while an athlete’s medals and creative awards should be kept for the thing that most drives and inspires us - the final results. 

Let’s start viewing process in the way that Michael Jordan regarded his training - as the ’ fire’ behind the ‘flash’.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly email alert and receive a regular curation of the best creative campaigns by creatives themselves.

Published on: