Make, don't do. But always copy. | Make, don't do. But always copy. | DMA

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Make, don't do. But always copy.


Creativity comes from 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, doesn't it? Might we save a lot of time, efforts and sweat if we stuck to copying instead? Mark Earls and Laura Jordan Bambach say so.

"I face this - how to do great stuff, effective stuff, interesting stuff that keeps you going," says Mark Earls, HERDmeister at the Herd Consultancy in his twin presentation with Mr Predisent's creative powerhouse Laura Jordan Bambach, who has just been given the nod by Debrett's for the second year in a row and the DMA What's Next? event to launch the DMA Awards Annual.

"My big thing is that we are all copycats - learning from other people.

"This is what shapes so much human behaviour. Apply this to marketing and creativity," says Mark.

He gave the example of two notes, an octave apart that sound something like this:

But listen closely, doesn't that hook sound something like (or even the same) as the chorus to this:

Did Bowie copy it? Apparently he consciously did, and sometimes sung 'Starman' with the lyrics of 'Somewhere over the rainbow' at gigs. Does that make Bowie less of a genius?

"Most human life is individuals reponding to a particular context," says Mark, "we outsource the cognitive load. We think that we are individuals making individual choices, but we are not - we see other people."

According to Laura, another Bowie technique was to use cut-ups, or literally cutting something up with scissors to create something new.

This is something he learned from William Burroughs.

It turns out he learned it from somewhere else - he got it from Brion Gysin, who got it from painting where it was already 'old hat':

"This technique might not solve the brief, but it will start getting you creative," says Laura.

Like Picasso says: "Talent copies, genius steals."

For example, James Watt didn’t invent the steam engine. He repaired an older machine, made it better, and patented the idea. He stole it.

The same can be said for Steve Jobs and smartphones, which had been around for a few years before the iPhone came along.

Someone else who copies is Professor Martin Elliott, a paediatric heart surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. He's also a fan of Formula 1 racing, and noticed that successful pit stops relied on the handover between different jobs to work efficiently.

He applied this thinking to surgery, and focused on the handover between teams before, during and after surgery. He has saved countless lives as a result:

Laura says to copy loosely. "Like Grayson Perry says, 'Originality is for people with short memories', and TS Eliot says, 'It's not if but how you copy'."

"Be OK with it. Call yourself a copycat. Maybe there should be an award - best use of someone else’s idea.

"Be OK with it - think about where did you get it from, rather than how did you come up with it," says Mark.

"It's about small changes - not getting things wrong but creating error. Copy loosely," he says.

Laura says it's important to create, and not just be a craftsperson, so diverse ideas come to what you do.

"We are often not makers, but doers. I never hire anyone who doesn’t do something creative outside work. They bring thoughts and ideas from afar back into the industry. Those that just do advertising every day are limited," she says.

These distant ideas are what we can copy from.

"A maker is an explorer able to create new ideas in culture," she says.

"A doer is a craftsperson who plays in a defined space. A doer doesn’t do anything new.

"Copy from afar - your goal is bigger than advertising," she says.

"Don't let the borings get you. Be bold and lean into your fear. Leave room for experimentation because there is magic is in the playing. Team up with other people - collaboration is queen. If you partner with the other agencies and the client, you will find that you get to other places," she says.

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