Friday, October 17, 2014

Quiet, Krone and Creativity.

On Wednesday night I finally got a good solid hour of quiet.

Quiet is unusual in our worlds.

We seem to work--or at least be subject to emails, phone messages, to-do's, 24-hours-a-day. I know some people who return from four days on the road, four days of early mornings and late nights, and the first thing they do when they get home is sit down at their computer and catch up on everything they've missed.

It's more than a little perverse.

At a time when wages are actually falling, job security is non-existent and perks and bonuses are a thing of the past, we are being compelled to work harder and harder for bosses--the heads of holding companies--we never see,

Despite all that, I got a good solid hour of quiet Wednesday night, and I got to dive deep inside a book that was recently sent to me, "Remember those great Volkswagen ads?"

I’ll admit, beautifully-designed, oversized books printed on heavy paper are a bit of a fetish with me, and I turned each page delicately. I wanted to savor every one. Accordingly, when I got to those parts of books that most people skip past—the Forward, the Prologue, the Author’s Notes, etc. etc., I took the time I had to read them all.

The last of the three or four of the preliminaries I read was called "Krone alone" and it was an account by Helmut Krone, art director of Volkswagen's original ads, of getting the VW assignment from Bill Bernbach.

Krone reacted to the assignment the way most of us act when we get an assignment.

This sucks, he thought. What in god's name is Bernbach thinking. What have I done wrong that I'm being punished.

The VW had a strong Nazi odor. It was co-opted by Hitler as the "Kraft dur Freude," the "Strength through Joy" car. It was ugly. Under-powered. Small at a time when everyone wanted big. Perhaps most depressing of all to Krone, he had to partner with Julian Koenig who, Krone said, spent more time at the racetrack than he did at the office.

Krone was so depressed by all this that after he and Koenig sold their first round of ads, he went on vacation for a few weeks to escape the taint.

It was only when he came back to the States that he learned his VW ads had struck a chord.

I guess my point here is fairly simple.

I happen to believe if you poll most creative people, they'll tell you their assignments suck. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Monet carped about having nothing to paint but his over-grown garden, or Van Gogh had had it up to here with sunflowers.

But good creatives take what they're given.

They might grumble and bark and call their headhunters, etc. But good creatives take what they're given. They find something cool or important buried inside. And they create good work.

All assignments, in a way, suck.

Creativity is making them good.

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