21st July 2016
Tom Richards is CCO of Havas Lynx EU and is responsible for the creative reputation of Havas Lynx. With over 20 years’ advertising experience producing award winning and category-changing work across every conceivable medium, Tom believes in harnessing the power of creativity to solve problems, sell products and more importantly improve lives.
Creatives are never comfortable on the other side of the camera. But at least we knew what we were getting ourselves into when we volunteered to take part in a new TV show, Inside Out Homes on Channel 4.
Presented by celebrity architect Zac Monro. The show takes boring or tired properties and transforms them beyond recognition.
We live in a disposable society and most people consider the world of advertising to be somewhat throwaway too. We’re always searching for the next amazing idea, always creating, never standing still. So it’s been quite a different – but hugely rewarding – challenge to apply my creative skills and knowledge to a tired 1950’s bungalow and breathe new life into it.
It’s been an incredible 12 months. While I’ve been building the biggest healthcare creative department in Europe, (just saying) I’ve also built my dream home. And I had to smile at the amazing similarities between the two seemingly different projects…
On this project, the client was my wife. And that, dear reader, is the toughest client of all. I knew I’d have one hell of a job on my hands to sell this idea. I braced myself for the biggest pitch of my life:
“Hi darling, how do you feel about selling our beautiful Victorian home of 8 years and helping me start from scratch with a bungalow so out of date it’d make an old folks’ home look contemporary?” This was going to take more than a bunch of flowers and a fancy meal. But like any client, she just needed a strong rationale, a clear presentation, gallons of passion and belief in the idea. And it worked. (I also got lucky and sold the house easily, allowing us to live in a rental rather than a caravan. Boom, marriage saved.)
The idea behind the TV show is for Zac to meet his clients in the morning, have a walk around the property, have a quick think over lunch and then deliver his grand design. I found this a little odd. Call me old fashioned, but a creative should never, ever work on a project without a robust brief. So I waded in. I arranged a call and over the course of four hours, Zac interrogated us and vice versa. But he left that mammoth conversation knowing exactly what was needed. And funnily enough, when the big idea was revealed, it was even better than we expected and bang on brief. The client was delighted. (Thank goodness. More brownie points for me.)
Why give a client exactly what they’ve asked for, that they’ll be fairly happy with, when you can go a little further and give them something they’ll totally fall in love with? Knowing how to play to the heart is a powerful tool indeed. And that’s exactly what Zac did. He presented a design that we couldn’t afford. But because we fell in love with it, we somehow found a way to stretch our budget. And it’s surprising how many times I’ve seen a client do exactly the same when they have their expectations pushed and they can see you’ve looked beyond the obvious.
The Creative Process
I’m a firm believer in surrounding yourself with people who share your creative passion. Whether you’re working on a house or a creative campaign, chemistry is important. It’s always good to know you can share your vision and gauge a reaction. And sometimes it’s good to even just talk rubbish and bounce ideas around that may not necessarily be right – what’s important is being comfortable enough with your creative partner to be able to say anything, suggest something to see what they think without worrying they’ll judge (or worse, laugh) is vital. It’s exactly the same with your builder and architect, particularly when things don’t go to plan and budgets become stretched. And especially when you’re not their usual client. Anally retentive Virgo, moi??
It’s been amazing seeing the house, the vision and the dream live beyond a concept and sketch on a piece of paper. The moment when I first saw the scaffolding removed will stay with me forever. And it’s not unlike the moment you see your idea, your ad, your campaign go live. What starts as a scribbly scamp on a layout pad or a nugget of an idea on the back on an envelope, finally becomes something real and on display to the world. Something that will leave an impression, change a life, or make a difference no matter how big or small. It’s a big moment. And I’m pretty sure that’s how the architect must feel too, when they stand back to admire their handiwork. After all, the process is the same, it’s just the materials that are slightly different. (But I did learn this: boy if you do make a mistake, you can’t just change the channel to BBC.)
Find out yourself by watching our bungalow transformation on Channel 4, this Thursday 21st July at 8pm. I just hope I don’t come across as the cliche arsy creative or the new Nasty Nick. Or worse, Rylan.
(Clue: my wife hasn’t murdered me, or divorced me and appears to still be friends with me. Until my next brainwave…)