Mark Braddock, creative director at Block Branding, wrote a piece for the “Australian Creative” titled Advertutionalisation, where he talks about how he’s been “trained” to respond to a brief:
I get pretty much a free rein to write what I like (…) And that’s the bloody problem.
I have been trained, Pavlovian dog-style, to respond to a brief. I know how to take a brief, apply a little lateral thinking and create a serviceable, if not always groundbreaking, piece of communication.
We all dream about how wonderful things would be without the constraints of a brief. Oh, how wonderful it would be to have creative freedom, real creative freedom. Well, I’m telling you there is a reason that most real artists end up destroying themselves and/or those around them. When you remove the brief, you end up in one hell of a scary place.
I’d argue that it’s a tiny minority of people the ones that can work with real freedom. They don’t create to solve a need. They just create. If that creation ends up unleashing a need, that’s a different issue. Although I’m tempted to connect this “talent” with entrepreneurship, I quickly realize that I’m way off. Like in any other profession, most entrepreneurs create only after they had recognized a pain. On the other end, there’s people in a wide range of professions that create their best work only when they aren’t answering to anyone or anything.
Although we all dream of working without a brief, working with a brief gives us something to measure ourselves against. It gives us a nice, wide set of goal posts and a nice comfortable set of crutches. Clients give us the money and time, and all the excuses we will ever need.
When you aren’t free, you can rationalize any results. Even worse: You can rationalize your intentions.
I have therefore learned to love the brief like it is my own comfy little cell. It’s more than comfy; in fact, it’s like one of those cells that drug barons get to stay in. You know, the ones where they can pretty much live the life they want to so long as they don’t walk out the front gate. It is a cell, but it’s a very nice cell.
To hell with creative freedom… what about just freedom? The one we claim to enjoy, seek, fight for, miss, or whatever relationship you may have with it. What are we doing with it?
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. We don’t want pure freedom.
We just want some wiggle room.