Over the past few years, my travels have taken me to a number of large ad agencies who’ve decided that the naming conventions for conference rooms needed to be made more “creative.”
So instead of Conference Room 6-C, you wind up with rooms called “Columbus Circle” or “Darrin Stevens” or “Tony The Tiger.” Which is fine in a smaller shop with just two or three conference rooms.
But in a big agency with 20 some odd conference rooms, it's just one big hassle. No matter how many floor charts the agency hands out.
No one can ever remember if “Darrin Stevens” is on 26 or 29. Ten minutes are wasted at the beginning of each meeting just trying to find the room. Receptionists spend much of their day directing traffic and are often clueless if the room in question isn’t on their particular floor.
What’s significant about this is that it’s the perfect example of a common mistake ad agencies make, both in the digital space and beyond: they try and make things clever and creative that don’t need to be clever and creative.
You see, sometimes things just need to be clear.
This is a recurring battle I’ve fought my entire career against other creatives who've insisted on making every bit of information as obtuse and poke-you-in-the-ribs clever as possible. So that even if a print ad already had a really clever headline and visual combo along with a witty line or two of body copy, they’d insist that the phone number be upside down, in Roman numerals, or both because of the misguided notion that “everything can be an avenue for creativity.”
The possibilities for abuse on the web are ripe too: witness the flash intros that agencies want to introduce for just about every single page of a website—even the “Contact Us” page. (“Yeah, so then this phone comes spinning on, kind of like an iPhone or something and then you see the buttons get pushed and like an email address pops up that says I'mTheHelpDude@acme.com and it’s like you’re sending email and then that spins…” )
We've all been in that meeting.
Letting well enough alone is a lesson ad agencies will have to learn if they’re to succeed in the days after The Real Digital Revolution. They’ll have to let go of the fear that their only value to a client is to provide something intangible called “creativity” and come to understand that their value is in providing creative strategy.
Creative strategy is all about clarity and ease of use and what the customer wants to hear. And is only about being clever when being clever is what’s called for.