The Creative Department

I ran an ad agency creative department for many years at a company that went by many names, starting with Leonard/Monahan. All ad agencies have creative departments. I must say with a lack of humility usually reserved for parents that this creative department was one of the best in the world from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and I challenge anyone to argue that point. Schenck, Lubars, Baldwin and Goodrich, just to name the creative directors.

In addition to having some extremely creative people in the creative department, extremely talented people worked for me, too. All the people were a blend of both creativity and talent. But as creative as this department was, I would say that most of the people who worked for me were stronger on the talent side of the equation than the creative side. Nice writing. Well-crafted art. But where did the idea for the ad come from? My company probably exhibited the 80/20 rule as well as any ad agency in the business — that is, 80 percent of the big ideas come from 20 percent of the people. (See Chapter 18, Mind Farming, for a detailed discussion of creative personality typing.)

I hear about creative artists, and I go to galleries, and so much of it has already been done. It's so derivative. Most fine art, particularly in the early periods—landscapes, still lifes, portraiture — is not a display of creativity. It is simply a display of talent. If it looked like what the artist was painting, they created nothing. They re-created it at best.

There's a fun little exercise I use quite often in my classroom to clarify the distinction between creativity and talent. I play a piece of music

This painting is not the result of creativity. It's the result of artistic talent. If this scene looks like the vista that was copied, then the painter created nothing. God created this landscape. Or, ironically, if this were farmland, then a farmer would have "created" much of it with a tractor. The artist with the brush in this case exhibited talent, not creativity. In fact, the artist here was my dad, and if I'm not mistaken his "inspiration" was another painting.

written and first recorded by rocker Van Morrison when he was in a British Invasion band called Them. The song is called "Gloria." As I play that piece of music, I ask people to play rock 'n' roll trivia with me, and in nearly every group, someone knows it's Van Morrison.

Then I immediately play a different version of the same song, recorded by the American band, The Shadows of Night, who covered the Van Morrison song and actually had a hit with it in 1967. Some people guess this.

Then I play yet another version of the song, this time by rocker Patti Smith who reinvents the song. If you've never heard it, not until the chorus line of "Gloria" do you know it's that song — it's very different from the original.

Finally in this demonstration, I have a bunch of guys from my ad agency singing "Gloria" on tape, and I play that for the group.

These four different "artists" demonstrate the four different combinations of creativity and talent.

Van Morrison's clip demonstrates true creativity—after all, he wrote the song. He has talent. He can hit the notes and remember the words. I wish I could do that.

The Shadows of Night did not create the song. They did a cover. But they hit the notes and remembered the words. They have musical talent.


The artists*



Van Morrison


The Shadows of Night



Patti Smith


Agency Guys Singing



The Creativity/Talent Scorecard *Even the term artist is often confusing. Are all of these talented people artists? Maybe. Are they all creative artists? Well, no. Are they even all talents? Well, no again.

Patti Smith totally reinvented the song. She brought creativity to it. Is Patti a brilliant singer? I think not. But Patti Smith is in what I call the "Dylan strata." I know that some of you are about to throw this book at the wall, but I'll say it anyway: "Bob Dylan has very little musical talent."

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