Creativity v Money

In World War 2, my Uncle Harry was in the 8th
Army, the Desert Rats.

They were fighting the Germans in North Africa.

In typical British army style, their equipment was crap.

Everything was left over from the First World War.

But they were fighting a modern, well-equipped, efficient

The Afrika Corps.

Uncle Harry said one of the worst things was the way the
British Army carried its water and petrol.

They used flimsy containers that were pretty much just big

Rattling around all over the desert caused them to leak or

The Germans meanwhile had better equipment all round.

Uncle Harry said he was particularly jealous of the Germans’
water and petrol containers.

These were so tough you could stand a lorry on them and they
wouldn’t break.

So the British soldiers did what they’ve always done best.

They improvised.

They stole the cans off the Germans and used them instead.

Eventually the British army learned to copy the German

And, even today, these containers are still called Jerry

Isn’t that what creativity’s about?

It’s about improvising, using your brain.

Use whatever you can, from wherever you can.

It’s not just about spending money.

Anyone can win when they’ve got the best of everything and
more of it.

But the real buzz is winning when you haven’t.

Lack of money often forces us to be creative.

Brian May, from Queen, loved the unique sound of his
original guitar.

So, even today, he has expensive replicas made.

The original guitar was made by his dad, in his shed.

The body came from an old wooden mantelpiece.

The tremolo arm came from a bicycle saddlebag carrier.

The knob on the end from a knitting needle.

And the springs were valves from an old motorbike.

He had no money so he was forced to be creative.

Now he uses money to try to replicate that original

One of the people that influenced John Lennon and Paul
McCartney most was Buddy Holly.

He was one of the inventors of rock & roll.

And, as with anything you invent, you have to make it up.

You can’t just copy what went before.

If you want a sound you have to create it.

Two of his most influential records were ‘Everyday’ and ‘Not
Fade Away’.

There aren’t any drums on ‘Everyday’.

To get the different sound he wanted, the drummer just
slapped his leg throughout.

Same thing on ‘Not fade Away’.

The percussion is just drumsticks on a cardboard box.

Lack of money, lack of resources forces you to be creative.

I was at a party at Robin Wight’s house once.

Robin had bought a large chrome sofa by the English/Israeli
designer Ron Arad.

Everyone was admiring it.

I knew Ron Arad and we were discussing the sofa.

I said, “I like your
work a lot Ron. But, for me, your earlier furniture seemed more daring. Like the
armchairs made from the seats of a Rover 3 Litre car and some bent scaffolding-pipes.
What’s changed?”

Ron thought about it a bit.

Then he said, “Now I
am famous, if I have an idea, whatever it is, I can always find the money to
make it. When I was poor I had to think more.

I had to find other,
more creative ways to do it.”

That was a really good lesson for me.

Money may not be helpful to creativity.

Money may make us creatively lazy.

I see lots of articles about what happened to creativity in
UK advertising.

Well the drop in creativity seems to me to coincide with the
rise of computer generated graphics (CG).

We don’t need to think of a clever way to do anything.

Now, CG can do everything.

So the answer’s simple: money.

And whoever’s got the money can buy what looks like

But it isn’t really.

Because, as with any technological innovation, everyone else
has got it, too.

And if we do the same as everyone else, we’ll look like
everyone else.

We’ll just be another big money production like all the

And that’s not very creative.

If we want to stand out we’ll need to do of something no one
else is doing yet.

And that’s a lot more difficult, because that takes brains.

As Winston Churchill said, “We have no money. We shall have to think.”

  • Chris Wilson

    ‘Lack of money’ is so often the excuse for poor thinking (or poor results) – and I agree that lack of it can often force some real lateral thinking.

    Years (decades) ago I saw one of the best examples. Client was a women’s magazine focusing on social/human issues. The agency/client had run out of money, with only £100 left in the coffers. The agency could only afford a small classifed ad in the Big Issue.

    The ad ran: Chinese women for sale. Two children included. £250 ono. Call (0800 etc…).

    It went to a recorded message saying (something like): “Women across the world are being sold into slavery, read (Magazine name) to find out what you can do about it”.

    Thousands of people signed up within days of the ad running.

    I’m sure it was Ernest Rutherford who came up with the ‘We’ve run out of money, so we’re going to have to think” quote? Still, illustrates the point perfectly…

  • Tod Norman

    Among my top ten ads of all time would be the 5 x1 ( I think) black and white ads for 2CV that used to run in Private Eye in the 80’s. The one that springs to mind was ‘Same number of wheels as a Porsche.’ Brilliant.

    PS Nick Fordham claimed that the planner who briefed that ad didn’t use a creative briefing form. He just showed the creative team a Bic disposable cigaraette lighter and said ‘That’s it – that’s a 2CV’. I’d love to believe that’s true.

  • Iain Brown

    necessity is the mother of invention – its not just in advertising that the use of cgi technology is annoying – its ruinin movies too – there are bits o enormous debris flying everywhere rather than the brilliance of invention from say a harryhausen…

  • Dave Trott

    Hi Chris Wilson,
    I think I porefer it by Ernest Rutherford.
    I shall attribute it to him from now on.

  • Web Designer London

    It is also about seeing what needs to be done and doing, a lot of the time people don’t see the what the actual or real problem is that they need to be solving.

  • A Different Hat
  • Kevin Gordon

    Hi Dave,

    You won’t believe this, but I had an uncle in the 8th Army too. He was in the Ambulance Corp and narrowly missed a sniper’s bullet as he opened the back door of the ambulance. He was a Middlesborough Fan (bad choice), and smoked a pipe (another bad choice). He was also an Anaesthetist. As a devout Catholic he used to get very upset at the increasing amount of abortions after the war, so he improvised. Years after he died, my father told me he used to go into the operating theatre in his hospital in Middlesborough with a bottle of Holy Water, and Baptise the kids without anyone knowing. That was his way of being creative.

    I had a friend who one day told me she’d had an abortion. She knew I was an adopted child. Before she had told me about the abortion, I’d mentioned to her I was grateful my Mum (who I have never seen) handed me over for adoption.
    I was totally amazed at her humility to tell me of all people her deepest innermost secret. It must have been so hard for her keeping this locked insideher soul for so long. So I told her: “If it was meant to be, it would have been, and that if I was her son watching her cry as she was in front of me now, that I would have forgiven her without reservation.” It seemed to help close a chapter in her life and mine.

    Money can be a curse to creativity, or it can be a cure. Take Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or Trainspotting. Two great small budget films. I was watching Sailor Beware! today, an old black & white comedy. No flash sets, no CG, just a hilariously brilliant and well thought-out script and storyline that has not been ruined by the paifully predictable Hollywood Formula. At the other end of the scale take Cecil B de Mille’s Moses, or Ben Hur. Titanic, Star Wars, Close Encounters. They all needed money to succeed because they involved complex executions. Once again, Executions are not Ideas. no No NO.

    The great idea is not dependent upon money. As you say, it’s dependent upon brains. The great danger is soon the brains will become totally dependent upon CG, and that limits thinking to what can and cannot be done because the channel of thought has been predetermined like tunnel vision, and people will end up with blinkered thinking, not lateral thinking, because they have all been led along the same path by the Pied Piper, and we all know what happened to the rats. They all drowned in the Thames. Churchill made sure that didn’t happen to the D-Day invasion when he designed the concrete pontoon piers.
    That took a lot of money, but it only floated because the idea was great.

    Money is useful. Ideas are sacred.

  • Ruby Rosamund

    Hello. Something I wrote last week about money, creativity… and you. mwahaha.

    Is this why us students are so creative? It even explains why the ones with parents with deep pockets aren’t quite as creative as the rest of us. I like it! Unfortunately we’ve just had our first taste of this problem in the opposite sense to how you speak of it… A local shopping centre agreed to let us make them some ads – the most mediocre have prevailed because they don’t have the budget to take on a more exciting idea.

  • Kevin Gordon

    Hi Ruby,
    That,s where the selling part comes in.
    I’ve seen crap work beat great work because it was sold better.
    Go back to the Shopping Centre with a reason to believe.
    If the competition have won, so what.
    Go back and make them an irresistible offer the others cannot compete with.
    That’s how business is won.
    The deal’s not done til the ink is dry.

  • Grilla Login

    money money money
    cheeze cheeze cheeze
    money money money
    chocolate chocolate chocolate

    money money money
    don’t tease tease tease
    money money money
    shareholders say yes please

    with money money money
    processed cheeze starts to taste yummy
    money money money in the end it’s all about money
    monkey no longer chocolate but cheezed

  • Jayne Marar

    i’m starting to worry about you Grilla. we’ll still love you even if you’re not on the TV anymore X

  • Thomas Heginbotham

    Right on Kev.

  • gotnoteef

    next Grilla ad featuring our mate peeling a cheese string like its a banana – use the same music as they used in the Hamlet ad with Gregor Fisher.

  • Grilla Login

    WOOOOOHOOOOOOO, hey, look guys, I’m swinging from a poetree!

  • Grilla Login

    “Air on a Cheestring” it ain’t, gotno.

  • Kevin Gordon

    I know what you mean Grilla,
    I once had to do a packaging brief for…wait for it…
    Chocolate flavoured cheese.

    Did anyone Watch Alex Riley’s Brtiain’s “Disgusting Diet” on the BBC recently?

    I had to spit out some “Creamed Chicken Soup” last night.
    It was just too disgusting to eat.
    2% Chicken.
    98% Sxxx.
    If you don’t believe me, just check your labels.
    It’s horriffic, it’s shocking.

    Whio cares about the consumer any more?

    At least you know where you are with a Banana.
    It has its own built-in traffic light packaging.
    If it’s unfit for consumption it’s green,
    Ready to go, Yellow,
    and if it’s off, it turns black to warn you.
    Ecologically advanced packaging.
    They should make all packaging like it.
    Then manufacturers and retailers would get away with nothing.

    So here’s the starting gun guys:
    The first manufacturer to do it will WIN BIG BIG BIG MEGABUCKS !

  • Grilla Login

    Kevin, the supermarkets have a bad habit of discounting bananas [which, by the way, is derived from the A-rab word for finger] meaning the farmers get squeezed even further, meaning their quality of life doesn’t have much in the way of quality. The big banana boys too have an unpalatable habit of discounting both people and environment thru the way they go about business. I urge you to buy Fairtrade bananas wherever possible.

  • Jayne Marar

    i knew my fingers looked a bit funny. is that why we get on G?

  • Kevin Gordon

    I have a daughter with butterfingers who wants to become a doctor. Most doctor’s handwriting is illegible. That explains why nobody can decipher prescriptions and why prescriptions cost so much. The Phamacist has to waste his time guessing what’s wrong with you and give you what he thinks the Doctor has written. My daughter will go far. Russia hopefully.

  • Grilla Login

    Fish, chocolate, sponge, of suspicion and in every pie. Beware the fingers J and K.

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