Sharpen your creative saw

[Guest blog by David Nichols, Managing Partner and Head of Invention]

In marketing, you know it’s important to be creative, but how do you keep your creative skills sharp?  Last year, with this in mind, I gave myself a creative challenge: write and produce a play. The result was ‘The 13th Floor’ a one act comedy that premiered at a small studio theatre in Southampton this April.

Co-written with one of our brandgym ‘Dreamworks’ creatives, Matt Avery, it is the story of six people stuck in a lift with a bomb.  With some talented actors, a cunning set designer and an ex-professional director, we had tremendous fun and made a lot of people laugh.

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Are there any learnings from this experience for tackling the creative marketing challenges we face everyday: finding distinctive brand positionings, developing cut-through concepts etc.?  I believe there are:

1. Trust the creative leap

  • Too often in marketing we try and strategize everything to ensure we’ve got it absolutely right before we brief any creative work.  This usually leads to very dull and ineffective marketing that doesn’t engage or motivate consumers, even though the message is ‘correct’.  We need to trust creativity more. 
  • If Matt and I had tried to work out beforehand how our story would exactly work, we would never have written it.  You just have to have a clear, simple brief and trust the creative process to make the leap to an engaging idea.

2. Have ‘Drop-Dead’ lines

  • There’s no second chance on a first night.  It all has to come together perfectly – actors, lights, set, costumes & props.  Too often in marketing our deadlines are movable and so they always move in one direction…backwards!  In the theatre, once the first night is announced (usually before you have started rehearsals) then it never changes.
  • Having clear, immovable deadlines is the best way to motivate an entire team to deliver across multiple disciplines.

3. Trust your partners more

  • We all work with partners: creative, digital, media, PR, design etc.  Too often I see clients trying to micro-manage their creativity with repeated copy testing, concept tweaking and talent choices.
  • Writing a show as a team means we have to trust each other’s judgement implicitly, or we would never get anywhere.  Sure, we put a red line through stuff the other has written now and again, but our speed of agreement is very high.  That’s how creative partners work together and that is how it should be with your agency partners.


To stay sharp in any skill you have to pratice, and this applies to creativity.  So, why not ho ahead and set yourself a creative challenge for 2014. You'll sharpen your creative saw and have fun whilst doing it.