MKTX Creativity- Defined - MKTX
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MKTX Creativity- Defined

One key difference between creative and mathematical problem solving is that for one set of givens there is usually only one correct result in math. But in creative problem solving there are many creative solutions for the same set of givens.

The creative process is not a hard-wired one, like an algorithm. For me, the creative process begins as an amorphous, free-flowing river of ruminations on all kinds of new input, usually things I never paid attention to before. Unlike math, creative solutions are worked out more often in the imagination, rather than the whiteboard.

Creative Prerequisites

Many creative experts offer advisories and admonitions to help increase the likelihood of reaching a brilliant solution. The fact is, to be creative in communications, you have to be able to reject conventional thinking from time to time. You have to keep the bingo basket of critical evaluation tumbling. You have to suspend judgment so new ideas continue to flow. You must have some taste, but you also need to let your guard down in the presence of others on your team, who may pounce on them, frail as they may be in their notional state.

Variations on a Theme

Once you’ve taken that risk and avoided being laughed out of the room, you can apply a dose of the scientific method. When I arrive intuitively at what I think is THE creative solution, I try to think of iterations of it, scenes with different stories. Some work, some don’t. Some are funny, some aren’t. With help from my cohorts, the parameters of the concept are tamed and refined into a swath of acceptability. The multiple surviving iterations provide the database for abstracting the key elements of the concept, like defining what makes a fish a fish.

It is at this point, I think, the creative director’s job is done, and the solution becomes an algorithm, a step-by-step process to generate the concept with variation, in new and different ways, expressing the same concept in different clothes, voices, and backgrounds.

Here are two ads from a series we did some years ago for a jeweler. They are built on an algorithm, of sorts. Can you break it down? For the key code to these ads, stayed tuned for Part 2.


Joe Santana

Joe is a playful conceptualizer whose insights and creative leadership have assisted dozens of Northwest high technology and industrial enterprises. He toured the country with theater companies in principal roles as a child actor, received a classic prep school education, and after a dual major in science and English at USF, operated a California cattle ranch for two years before returning to complete his education at UP and settling in Portland. Joe's experience includes four years at Tektronix as their first creative director and corporate advertising manager. He went on to hold creative director positions at ad agencies Santana & English, Ltd., The Technology Group/Advertising, EvansGroup, and B/E/S/T Advertising, where his creative campaigns helped sustain three years of 30% growth for Tek's $600 million color printer division prior to its purchase by Xerox. He joined MKTX in 1999. Every Friday he suits up with a bow-tie and drives his 1940 Packard convertible.