For Better Creative, Raid the Fridge and Pantry

Some days our business feels a lot like a prime-time cooking competition—a list of specific “ingredients” required for each execution, a series of seemingly impossible time constraints, and of course, a panel of unrelenting judges. Take Food Network’s hit show Chopped, four chefs scramble to prepare an appetizer, entrée and desert while surviving three heated rounds of competition. One contestant is chopped after each course based on the judges’ opinions of flavor, presentation and creativity. Admittedly, just watching the show is a tad stressful, but it’s hard to deny the parallels between it, and the pressure-cooker in which today’s agencies operate.

From new business pitches to integrated marketing campaigns for established clients, agencies are always presented with a basket of “ingredients” to include in every project —mandates that can range from the executions themselves (interactive banner ads, guerilla tactics, a print component, etc.), to constraints like brand standards, budget considerations or specific vendor requirements. Then there’s the time element. “This project’s hot.” “We need layouts immediately.” “Due to the publication today.” And like the contestants on Chopped, before you get a chance to think, you’re already on the clock. It’s easy to focus solely on the items in the basket. But that’s not all an original recipe requires.

Despite the mandates, you must find room to inject creativity into every challenge. On Chopped, the chefs access the pantry and refrigerator for things like milk, eggs, butter and spices—whatever they need to turn the items from the basket into something unique and appealing.

In advertising, our pantry and refrigerator is our lifetime of knowledge, experiences and marketing discipline. Go there. Add some spice to your work, infuse a little authenticity, and prepare something fresh and unexpected. As long as you don’t forget the items in the basket, you’ll have a presentation that’s sure to impress the judges and ultimately ensures you avoid the chopping block.