December 2, 2015

Funny is money, why humour is essential to your creative practice


Sarah Boulton

Sarah at Eurobest, Antwerp

One of the talks that we enjoyed the most at our recent trip to Eurobest in Antwerp was Scriberia’s Dan Porter on the correlation between humour and creativity.The presentation opened to the song “I love to laugh” from Mary Poppins. Porter highlighted that Disney had a fascination with characters defying the laws of gravity, Wendy in Peter Pan had to think happy thoughts to fly, and Jane and Michael in Mary Poppins had to laugh to eat afternoon tea on the ceiling. What they all have in common is that to defy gravity you have to forget the conditions that are keeping your feet on the ground.

He then rightly stated that this is the same in the creative battle; there is a constant downward pull against the weightlessness of flying. The downward pull in the creative sense is the challenges such as budgets, time pressures, expectations and the shadows of previous successes. Being creative needs an unshackling from the ground and everything holding you there, on the ground is not where the magic happens.

This is often the case in the PR world and something that we face ourselves at Fanclub often. Receiving a brief a week before a campaign goes live or integrating into a wider marketing campaign with little wiggle room pushes the creative skills, but as Porter claims the quicker you can forget this, the quicker you can start flying creatively.

The talk goes on to say that in the work place humour is often seen as a distraction, unprofessional, much like an embarrassing friend whom you are trying to suppress. Where as in reality in the creative industry and any job that requires an ounce of creativity, humour is your helpful best friend. It enables you to be inventive, gives you perspective and delivers fresh ideas.

Laughing at work is instrumental. This does not mean taking the brief or the client less seriously, it just means allowing for curiosity and comprehension. Creative businesses thrive from clients that need to appear more exciting; this is arguably the most lucrative ground for creativity. However sometimes the content can be so dry that you enter a desert of ideas, this can often leads to frustration and delirium. Here is where humour again paves the way to success, usually at this delirious point where you are almost going to give up someone will come up with a silly idea, not the idea that ultimately works, but it will provide the crucial breakthrough. In this sense briefs from a client need to be roughed up a bit before you really get to the most creative and innovative ideas, you need to get surreal and slapstick with it before you can really get to the light-bulb moment.

We can really relate to this at Fanclub some of our company values are built around this very point. “We have that Friday feeling everyday” meaning that we bring that light-hearted and fun element of a Friday to all of our work, “We are curious and inspiring”. Some of our most innovative and creative work has come about from brainstorms where “silly” ideas prompt or evolve into campaigns such as Tesco Mobile’s emoji crop circle for the Wake Up campaign which has been one of its most creative and successful PR campaigns to date, and Bondara’s Game of Bones which had us in fits of giggles during the planning and resulted in over 200 pieces of coverage.

However, humour is also a risk and needs to be harnessed cleverly and sensitively on some occasions so that you don’t leap into obscurity.

With this in mind, here are some key principles from the talk:

  1. No comedians – someone who thinks they are funny all the time can overpower creativity from the rest of the group
  2. Create a safe place – allowing for these crazy or silly ideas to be aired Don’t be mean – creating this safe place needs openness and trust
  3. Surround yourself with things that make you laugh – people, films and art can provide constant fountains of inspiration
  4. Too smart is dumb – a witty idea no one understands is worse than an idea that is not witty at all

Dan Porter is the Co-founder at live visual representation company Scriberia. He can be found tweeting at @ScriberianDan.

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