Matt Williams; why we should follow Dave Trott’s advice and go out into the big wide world

This is a blog about a blog. Or, more accurately, this is a blog about a blog and an advertising conference.

Why come up with your own ideas when you can steal others?

Screen-Shot-2013-07-11-at-10.34.57Besides, there’s nothing I can write that could make me seem half as clever as Dave Trott (left).

If you haven’t read one of his books, do it now.

No seriously, stop what you’re doing, close this browser (although please save it for later) and go and buy Creative Mischief. You’ll devour it in one sitting, guaranteed.

This week I enjoyed one of Trott’s best blogs. He told the story of Apple’s iPod launch event, and why the session was a bust as Steve Jobs was talking to tech people, who couldn’t envisage the wider implications of his new device. They only cared about the technology that went into it – and that wasn’t as groundbreaking as they had hoped. Yet the iPod would clearly go on to revolutionise the music industry forever.

Marketing conferences and award shows are like that, Trott reasoned. People in our business go along to these, nod along and embrace the advertising theories that their peers divulge.

But consumers – those people we’re actually making the ads for – aren’t living in advertising theories. They’re not up to speed with the ins and outs of the industry, or the life and times of advertising past.

They’re out in the real world, living life. They’re up to speed with the day-to-day grind, embracing the next big social fad, caring about what’s going on in Coronation Street, not Soho.

We should therefore be thinking more about the outside world, not our own little marketing bubble.

It’s a view I find hard to disagree with.

So I feel like a bit of a hypocrite when I back Trott’s theory up with a comment from an advertising conference.

Back in April I was at Advertising Week Europe. Much of this conference was a homage to the theories and details that Trott rallies against in his blog.

But a few nuggets shone through. And of course, those gems came from sessions where an agency had the foresight to use their slot to discuss something outside of our little world. Namely Framestore discussing Gravity (the Oscar-winning film, not Einstein’s theory) and Sky’s Stuart Murphy talking about the pressure and process behind commissioning hit TV shows (full disclosure: that was an Engine talk…so there’s the agency plug out the way).

The other nugget came from Grey’s Vikki Maguire. Her point was that the office should be a place “to dump your bags”, before you then go out into the big wide world to see what’s actually going on. How can you write a decent ad for anyone other than yourself and your peers if your entire life is spent either at home in Brixton, at the office in Kings Cross, or on the Victoria line heading between the two?

Engine has a nice office. It’s perfectly located, which I like. It means I’m motivated to come to work.

It’s got a trendy looking reception, which helps. It feels welcoming when I come in in the morning, and clients like coming there.

It’s got a great bar and terrace. Which is important, because an agency is a social place, and I like interacting with like-minded individuals. It’s a great place to compare notes, share thoughts and drink beer in the sunshine. It reminds you that you’re not staring at a spreadsheet working in a printing supplier in Slough.

But the floors in the middle? I’ve come to realise that we shouldn’t care less. They should, as Vikki put it, be a place for you to dump your bag. Because if you consider yourself to be a creative person in any way, then you should be out talking to people, bouncing ideas off each other, finding the next big idea or learning from the world around you.

Get up and walk around the office. Speak to people who aren’t in your department. Take a meeting to a pub. Defy Trott’s advice and go to a lecture – but instead of listening to someone from this industry, go and listen to a subject that’ll test you, that’ll teach you something about a subject you know nothing about.

Because the best thing you’ll be able to muster by sitting at your desk all day is an idea you’ve stolen off YouTube.

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