In any industry, it’s easy to lose perspective.
It’s easy to become complacent. It’s easy to forget why you ever started doing something in the first place and sometimes hard to reconcile whatever it is you find yourself doing now. It’s especially hard when there is no joy and there is mainly routine. With everything going on in the world and plenty of chaos and loss in our immediate circle this year, it was tough for me to come up with anything worthy of discussion for a branding blog entry. After about a dozen writing false starts, everything seemed fairly inconsequential.
Regarding advertising, I’ll admit, I was struggling a bit to find something worthwhile to talk about. But then again, I asked myself, is advertising ever really that interesting to talk about? My wife has kept me honest in the past twelve (or twenty) years by reminding me, it’s not.
Creativity, on the other hand? Pure, unbridled, unfiltered, untested, unprocessed, uninhibited creativity? The kind we’re encouraged to tap into in art school, as students, as children, where we break rules with conviction and are often commended for it? That is interesting, and that is everything.
But sadly, within today’s highly formulaic, metrics-heavy ad creative process, the purest, simplest, most beautiful ideas are often compromised, and that permission to make mistakes and to revel in your art freak weirdness is generally ill-advised or entirely missing. With the rare exception of the handful of agencies eternally revered for their swagger, the rest—now leaning more heavily than ever on short-lived social media blitzes and “viralness” to carry the burden of an idea—fall prey to focus grouping and get steered back to the middle. Within advertising and outside of it, fight the middle. With all of your heart and all of your soul, fight the middle. For the love of remaining an individual to the core, trust your instincts.
Fight the middle.
A recent trip back to new york city with my wife reminded me just how much there is outside the middle—outside of the mainstream and the traditional. I don’t know if it was Jeff Koons’ lime green mirrored stainless balloon dog on the fourth floor in his retrospective at the Whitney or Gabrielle Stravelli’s bewitching hour-long cabaret at the metropolitan room or the laser light show at here lies love or the palpable individuality of every small business on mott street or the rattle of the downtown 6 train on its rat-infested tracks or laying on our backs, staring up at a grey sky, listening to the staccato blades of helicopters from the great lawn of central park or walking hand-in-hand up the entire length of the high line. But somewhere in the midst of the city I’d traded eight years ago for another, I was reminded of just how much outside is out there and just how important it is to consistently take it all in.
There is comfort in the middle. Room to spare on all sides. It’s familiar territory to most and, if you’re good with complacency, easy space to occupy from cradle to grave. The second you find yourself getting sucked in, book a trip to New York City. If you already live there, count your blessings, then consider a quick retreat to another inspiring city with different scenery but that same undeniable non-conformist sensibility. Do a little Airbnb magic and, for a hot minute, to gain back a healthy dose of perspective, bust the f out. Doesn’t matter what the universal hot-crazy creative matrix says. It’s wrong.
The middle is no place for you.
(Dana’s shot by focalchrome).