Creativity Squared: Playing the Hero with Jesse Rea
Jesse Rea recently joined Jack Morton as senior creative director and leads work reimagining brand experiences for Facebook. Jesse has created smart, potent ideas of all shapes and sizes throughout his 15 years in advertising and is excited by getting his hands dirty and the process of creating – whether it’s for a small local craftsman or a global megabrand.
Sometimes I feel like I should’ve been a psychiatrist. Figuring out what makes people do what they do and feel what they feel is such a massive part of my job. Way before you even get to an idea, there’s a wonderful sense of discovery as you build up a portrait of the target in your mind and then try and decode what would make them smile. Since there is no perfect solution to any of the puzzles we try to solve, creativity gets to save the day. And who doesn’t like to play the hero?
I like to think that I’m a pretty easy-going creative. Ideas get killed too easily to be precious about any single one. I also believe that an inflated ego is the quickest way to kill your creativity. Self-doubt is a critical part of the creative process to get to a big idea. That pressure forces you to come up with something new. Going into a project over-confident is a perfect recipe for a stale solution.
Creativity in its most dynamic form should be almost invisible. The best possible response to your work is not ‘that is so creative,’ it’s ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Simplicity should always be the goal as it means the idea is pure and clear. No idea gets to that level of clarity without a strong group of people pressure testing it throughout the process. This is a team sport and it’s way more fun if you embrace that.
The first step is always consumption. That’s actually a step that never ends. To generate new ideas, or new connections you have to constantly feed on new inspiration. And I don’t mean other advertising. Read as much as possible, listen to music, go anywhere new. Stimulate your senses, or learn how something works. The more you jam in your head, the more is swirling around when you’re trying to find that moment of inspiration. That also means reading ALL of the briefing documents and background on the project in front of you. You want it all in there as something starts to take shape.
And then talk, out loud with another person. Talk about the problem. Talk about what’s missing. Talk about what would be impossible but cool. I find my thoughts solidify so much quicker when I start forcing the ideation into sentences. You will inevitably end up with a few little seeds of an idea. Write those down right that very second, with as much detail as possible. Young amorphous ideas will drift away as quickly as they appeared if you don’t put them on paper. That’s round one. Repeat as necessary until you have something you’d call a concept.
And then step away. Everyone says this because it’s true. Remove yourself from the grind and go for a walk, or go to dinner, or go to bed. Fresh eyes and a fresh mind will immediately illuminate if the concept you wrote has any legs at all. Or, it’ll help you see a new solution that was standing right next to your original idea the entire time. And then you pick the best people to help you bring it to life. Let them help shape it. Your idea might be brilliant, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.
I think a lot of my creativity comes from the fact that I have too many interests. From hardcore space science to fine art, too many sports to too many books, cars, collecting, crafts, and the list goes on. Bouncing from shiny object to new shiny object means I’m always thinking about things differently. Or appreciating a different aspect of what makes each thing great. That variety means I know a million different little things about a million different things. That cross-section of knowledge is wildly helpful when your job is to come up with something new. Combine all that (sometimes useless) knowledge with years and years of making things and out pops an advertising creative.