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August 2, 2006
Naked Creative
 
 

I was sitting at my desk this morning when my creative director walked in. I soon realized he was naked.

"You're naked," I observed.

"Yes, I am."

Silence.

"Anything you want to talk about?"

"My nakedness is emblematic of the baring of the creative soul. The complete, unfettered expression of our essence that we will apply to our work and our client relationships."

"The last time we bared our soul to a client, it cost us the account," I reminded him.

"I know. From now on we only work with clients who can appreciate our true, uncloaked essence."

"Are you concerned about your ability to lead the creative department with your essence hanging out like that?" I queried.

"Everybody's naked."

"The whole creative department is naked?"

"Yep."

Eyes averted, I rose and followed him to the creative department. In a testament to his leadership, all the creatives were, in fact, naked.

The gentlemen had more eagerly embraced the new paradigm, of course, whereas the ladies were making strategic use of job jackets and Post-it notes. There were several heretofore unseen tattoos, with a particularly lovely monogram stating, "It's about the work," positioned above the right cheek of a thirty-something designer.

The interactive department at McRae, for better or worse, adjoins our creative department. At that moment, a swarm of eager young people ran up and thrust a laptop at me. Our interactive discipline operates on a real-time delivery model, and I was presented with a fully functioning website featuring our creatives in their new professional attire.

"Crispin had Subservient Chicken," the group yodeled. "We have Naked Creative!"

The site was quite elaborate and featured a number of interactive games: ring-ding, pin-the-tail, etc.

"We've done three versions, and we're going to do a market test today to see which one is stickier," they explained.

"Print it out and let me have a look at it," I said.

"It won't print," they admonished me. "We would have to dumb-down the technology to make it printable."

Perfect.

After seventeen years in the business, I have learned to keep a little bourbon handy. I headed back to my office, where I encountered our media director. Not thinking to ask what he was doing lurking around the Presidential Bourbon Dispensary at 9:20 in the morning, I inquired as to his perception of the creatives' revelation.

"The whole media team thinks it’s great!" he said. This was not surprising, as our new planning model has the creative and media teams joined at the hip. He continued, "We think it opens up a ton of doors in the interruptive media area. The potential to turn naked into guerilla marketing is unlimited. I've already got a call in to my reps."

I poured myself three fingers and wondered whether a toast was in order, when our head of account service strode into my office with her perfected gait that tells me, "I'm showing respect but this is important so I'm coming in whether you want me to or not."

"The account team would like you to join them in the conference room," she said.

"I'm sure they would."

Sipping my beverage, I walked into the conference room. Members of the account group had actually donned additional clothing, some of them wearing parkas, in what I assumed was an attempt to counterbalance the creatives’ initiative and restore balance to the universe.

The mood was grim. Being account people, they had been working at the crack (pardon the pun) of dawn and seen the creatives trickle (that one, too) in. They had prepared a detailed spreadsheet with each client ranked by revenue. There was a crosstab labeled "Recoil Potential," which estimated on a scale of one to ten the anticipated reaction of each client when confronted with naked creatives.

A time line showed when creative work would next be presented to these clients, and an addendum indicated the number of months after that date each client could be expected to take in finding a new agency. The PR team was eagerly feeding data into our proprietary Brand Damage Model®.

"I see you've really nailed the attrition piece," I said, polishing off my drink. "Has anyone run an acquisition table?"

Silence.

I noticed one account team member, an account coordinator recently promoted from the rank of intern, had not participated in the discussion. I also noticed he was naked.

"Do you have an alternate opinion?" I inquired.

"Solidarity!" he exclaimed, raising his fist.

Time for another drink. On my way, I stopped in to see the woman who oversees our traffic and production. A seasoned veteran, she was sanguine.

"I saw a movement like this in the early '80's," she said, "but it petered out."

"I'll make the puns around here!" I stormed. "Besides, that was low-hanging fruit. Now tell me what you think!"

It turned out she did have a few concerns, including distractions during traffic meetings, the potential for misuse of the term "input session," and the danger of various appendages being tangled in large equipment during press checks.

I repaired to the Presidential Bourbon Dispensary, where our media director smiled and handed me another drink.

Feeling the need for grounded conversation, I went to find our VP Finance.

"The creatives are naked," I said.

"I know."

"See any repercussions?"

"Actually, I called the AAAAs and they had a study that outlined the impact of nudity in the workplace, and it turns out that naked creatives are 15% more productive than creatives who wear clothes. They do have more sick days because of colds, rashes, and that kind of thing, but surprisingly it looks like a break-even proposition."

"Thank you," I replied. "That was very clarifying."

With Presidential Helper #2 almost consumed, I teetered down the hall to see my partner.

My partner and I have a symbiotic relationship: I play the role of bon vivant and she actually makes things happen. Cracks the whip, if you will.

No stranger to bourbon herself, my partner recognized my condition and offered me a seat.

"The creatives are naked," I said.

"No kidding," she replied, giving me that "I'd be better off without you" look.

Leaning back, I recounted the morning's adventures: naked creatives; drunk media people; freaked-out account service team; sanguine veteran; more drunk media; inconclusive data; and my own dismay over poor career decisions.

"What do you think?" I asked her.

"I think," she said, clenching her highlight pen in a tight fist, "that everyone needs to get their (poop) together and get back to (bleeping) work!"

"Good idea," I replied. "You tell 'em."

With that, I floated out to the lobby and instructed our receptionist to turn on the automated phone attendant so she could drive me to Starbucks.

As I was leaving, I heard a "wooooohaaaa!" rise from the creative department and what sounded like firecrackers.

Safely deposited at Starbucks with my laptop, and taking advantage of an intermittently functioning T-Mobile Hot Spot, I am writing this article and contemplating the state of our industry. You know, they'd sell more coffee at this place if you could get a little bourbon to go with it.


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McRae founder and president Joe Snowden is actively involved in serving the strategic needs of the agency’s clients. As a consul to marketing leaders at many public and large private companies, Joe provides guidance and insight gleaned from experience across a diverse range of industries.

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