The Curious Steps to Better Creative

What makes a really great OOH campaign? I’m talking about the ones that go viral, win awards, transform the hearts and minds of people everywhere—what do those campaigns have in common?

As I prepare for my first year as an OBIE Awards judge, I’m looking back on truly memorable campaigns and thinking about what made them special. At our hand-painted walls I’ve seen everything from 2am photoshoots to celebrity appearances to lines of people snaking down the block. The same thing that brings people to our walls is the same thing we bring to every campaign we work on: curiosity.

Here’s a quick and dirty guide to becoming more curious:

Problem solve. Approach an RFP with gratitude and set out determined to solve your client’s problem. Remember, a brand is advertising for a reason, it needs something—more sales, more awareness, more connection. Approach each client’s needs with the tenacity required to deliver truly creative solutions.

Ask questions. Your mom told you no question is a dumb question. Listen to your mom. Don’t be embarrassed to hit-up a client for information that can help you do a smarter, more strategic job. You’ll be a better problem solver if you have all the facts. Some of my favorite questions are: How do you want people to feel when they see your campaign? What’s off limits, and why? How will you measure success?

Listen. Yes, asking questions is crucial, but so is keeping your mouth zipped long enough to hear the answers in full. Show people you’re interested in what they’re saying by being an active listener: patience, eye contact, thoughtful body language. Soak in the words, don’t feel the need to respond. And please, put your phone away (I don’t have a lot of rules as CEO but no devices in meetings may be the biggest one!).

Do your homework. A curious person loves research. She has books by her bed and considers Google her best friend. And when she gets a brief she digs up everything she can find about the brand, its competitors, its target demo, its past campaigns… The foundation for stellar creative is often a great investigative report.

Embrace a curious culture. If you’re in a leadership position, create a world where curiosity is a core value. If you aren’t in a leadership role, don’t settle for anything less than unbridled imagination. When people have the freedom and support to share their ideas—the good, the bad, and the ugly—they’ll think outside the box, tear down creative walls, and work with a spirit of possibility.

There are a lot of predictable campaigns out there. Babes and booze and beaches—I really wonder if they sell more stuff. I wonder how much curiosity went into the creation of those advertisements, how curious people are to go out and experience those ads. OOH is an opportunity to change the way people think, and curiosity is the key ingredient to making that happen.

Modified: 2 years