Colin Hart, Creative Director at The Public House writes about how an increased focus on creativity is the currency to deal with uncertainty.
Unprecedented times, living in uncertainty, the new norm, it’s getting a bit repetitive right now. We get it, it’s all bad and it’s going to get worse. But is it?
Over the past few months we’ve seen some really exciting developments in the way people/businesses approach their problems. None more than the restaurant game. Unfortunately for them they were faced with the categorical ‘You’re not opening’ rule. But if facing up to things is a key part of business, then the restaurant industry faced up to it pretty quickly. Our friends at Bread41 were probably the first. Within days their bakery and restaurant had opened up their ‘Hatch’. Making the bread indoors, whilst social distancing and selling it through a small ‘Covid spreading unfriendly’ slot in a window. Within days this small hole in their window had queues that were ‘out the hatch’.
They didn’t know what the future held but they dealt with it in a creative and practical way that worked for them and many others.
For most businesses this is a fork in the road, but we don’t know if the fork has two roads, or an M50 turnoff. We don’t know if it’s permanent or a blip. We just don’t know. This is where it gets complicated and this is what’s causing the ‘stress pandemic’.
In my opinion this is where creative thinking comes in. Bare with me, I’m calling it the ‘Hatch Mentality’. How do you find the ‘Hatch’ to your business problems? The work around what helps in a time when ‘That’s the way it’s always been done’ is done.
Creative agencies have a lot to share with the wider business world, less about the actual work (although we are open for business) but more about the process. Imagine a business where every morning you come in to work comfortable with the knowledge that you don’t know what is going to come out of it at the end of the day. We get briefed in the morning with a blank page and we output something at the end of the day that didn’t exist 8 working hours ago.
Think about the variables. It’s Monday morning, you’re still hungover from the Friday night office drinks (because you’re middle aged) and you get briefed to come up with a headline that makes a nation laugh and sell frozen food at the same time. If you think this doesn’t come with all the uncertainty in the world, then you’d be wrong. All the feelings I have had throughout this difficult time have been feelings I’ve had every Monday morning for my career (In a much smaller way of course)
It’s a scary premise that starts with thinking and understanding, taking some time, imagination and then suddenly and out of nowhere things start to flow and ‘Hey Covid, you’ve got your ‘hatch’. It’s something new and original and it’s specific to you and the problem you faced.
A good creative agency specialises in embracing the uncertainty. We can’t guarantee a client a product, but we can guarantee a process that leads to a product. Good creative agencies deliver every time based on process, experience and instinct.
The poet ‘Keats’ calls this ‘Negative Capability’. Embracing the mysterious, hygge-ing uncertainty (not his words) and high-fiving ‘The New Norm’ (his words). It’s the opposite of the quest for definitive answers. It suggests that insecurity is key to Creativity, and let’s face it, we’ve never been more insecure than we are right now.
No creative agency has a definitive answer, no-one has them right now. Clarity doesn’t exist. But we are happy to live in the questions, the processes and the mystery to answer problems in as best a way possible and rely on gut instincts to qualify them.
These instincts are difficult to define but we do know that they come back in the most challenging times. There is no book you can buy right now nor advice you can be given that will give you answers. The difference between your creative output being great or not is simply ‘do you think it will work’. That is where the clarity lies and the beautiful output of uncertainty…you just don’t know.
Just like good creative ads, ‘Hatch’ mentality is experimental, innovative, unexpected and a leap of faith. But the rewards are a functioning bakery that has queues for ½ mile or an online ordering system for Saturday night meals that are sold out in minutes or a van that delivers and pours pints on your door step.
I can hear you ask, ‘What are you guys doing right now in your tight jeans and avocado t-shirts?’ We’ll we’re trying. We’ve been working hard on our clients to help them, but that’s not a hatch; our hatch is that we think this is a time to reach out and use any downtime to help people. We have an agency initiative ‘The Local House’ which is to help out small businesses/organisations who really need it but might not be able to afford an ad agency (by the way, we’re great value). The Local House applies the same principles we apply to Jameson, Paddy Power etc but for much smaller enterprises, and often one man bands – coffee shops, barbers, dentists. It’s not just because it’s good for them, selfishly it’s because it helps us practice, remaining topical, culturally relevant and part of a community. And the odd return of free coffee, haircuts and wisdom teeth out comes in handy.
We understand however that being creative, never mind productive at this time is a tough ask but believe us, it’s necessary and it’s arguably the most important thing to do right now. Stability is gone, the new stable is uncertainty and if we rethink the whole situation and become confident in it, then it could be liberating. Living in that mystery, trying new things based on what you feel is a good idea is your ‘Hatch’. Obviously if you’re a restaurant, you should be way less metaphorical about it and just build a hatch. Only saying.