We don’t need more thinkers, we need doers
The act of creation is about making something happen,
Just making things nicer isn’t creativity.
As Edward de Bono said, “There are lots of people calling
themselves creative who are merely stylists.”
Nicole Yershon is genuinely creative.
She makes stuff happen, often from nothing.
Nicole is Mike Yershon’s daughter.
Mike was one of the best media guys in London.
So Nic grew up in an atmosphere of operators, people who
made stuff happen.
Not just people who sat around and complained about
Nic used to run the traffic department at GGT.
The creative dept was full of stroppy, grumpy
But quietly and firmly Nic organised them like a
I reckon we got double the amount of high-quality work
out because of the way Nic ran it.
I didn’t know at the time she was only 19.
Or that it was her first job out of school.
She obviously thought it was better to keep that quiet.
Anyway, after I left GGT, Nicole went to Ogilvy.
The brief she was given there was to “Bring Ogilvy into
the 21st century”.
She digitised traffic, so that workflow was hooked up to
This led to massive time and cash savings.
She binned every single mechanical and proof, and 10,000
reels, going back thirty years.
She kept one digital copy of everything.
At the same time she was learning everything she could
about the digital world.
Going to every lecture, seminar, and workshop she could
And she made a lot of contacts.
She comandeered a large conference room at Ogilvy.
And had it wired up as a ‘digital innovations lab’.
Then she started to contact people she’d met at the
Guys who sold great digital equipment, but didn’t have
She said she could let them have space in Ogilvy, for
All they had to do was supply and maintain the equipment.
Then, between 12.00 and 2.00, they could use the space to
This is an incredible deal that works for everyone.
Ogilvy get hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds worth of
state-of-the art digital equipment, free.
Their partners get great showroom space, free.
And Nicole began linking the London lab to other similar
labs in other Ogilvy agencies.
New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, Beijing.
She could stream information to 22,000 desktops in 19
But Ogilvy didn’t have a budget for all this.
So what does a creative person do?
Nicole noticed Rory Sutherland, the Ogilvy Chairman, was
doing lots of speeches.
She said, “Rory, do you get paid for these speeches?”
Rory said no.
Nic said, “If I can get a speaker’s fee for you, can I
use the money to expand the digital labs?”
Rory said okay.
In Rory’s own words, she “pimps him out” to fund all
R&D and innovation.
She created money where there wasn’t any money.
Just the way she created digital equipment where there
Just the way she created offices where there weren’t any.
And an international digital-innovations network where
there wasn’t one.
What have Ogilvy got from all this?
Well, for instance, a creative team were working on a
global warming awareness brief.
They asked Nicole if it was possible to flood the online
game ‘Second Life’.
To demonstrate the effects of the ice caps melting.
Nic called up some of her contacts and made it happen.
A great idea that couldn’t have seen the light of day
Another creative team were working on Fanta.
They liked the idea that children can hear mosquitoes but
They wondered if it was possible to make an app for
iPhones like that.
So that pupils in class could contact each other without
the teacher hearing.
That won a Cannes award because Nic made it happen.
Another idea was interactive posters for Castrol.
As your car passed a camera, it would photograph your
This would automatically be flashed to the DVLA in
They’d instantaneously return the relevant information.
And a poster, at the garage in front of you, would light
up with your number plate, and what sort of oil you should buy.
But for me, whether these are great ideas or not isn’t
even the point.
The point is, that real creativity is making this whole
thing happen from nothing.
No waiting for permission.
As Winston Churchill said, “We have no money, we shall
have to think.”