Be naïve


The other day, we got the legendary creative director/social campaigner/provocateur Trevor Robinson in to talk to us about his career. It was fascinating to have him talk us through some of his work and explain his approach to creativity and the advertising industry.

The main thing that came across was that he’s in it for the work, not his ego. It’s rare and refreshing for someone so accomplished, who’s achieved so many things – from creating iconic ads to founding his own agency to helping steer kids away from gangs and into the creative industries to receiving an OBE – to be so down to earth. He talked about the fact that so many people in advertising have such huge confidence and how that’s not the only way to be: “You get people like <advertising legend> who clearly have this unshakeable inner belief…they’re so sure they’re right…but I’ve never been like that…I’ve actually never been completely happy with anything I’ve ever done.

We talked about the fact that even today, nearly 20 years after some of it was created, some of his best stuff seems so bold and fresh (like his Apple Tango ad, above). I asked him how some of his best work came about and he said a lot of it was to do with not playing the game because he didn’t know the rules back then. “I didn’t realise how naïve I was…and that kind of helped.”

It reminded me of a bit in the comedian Frank Skinner’s autobiography when, having seen his first ever stand-up comedy show – at the Edinburgh Festival –  Skinner decided on the spot that he was going to be a comedian. But rather than starting by writing some jokes and doing some open mic try-out nights, he immediately spent his life savings booking a venue for an hour slot at the following year’s Edinburgh Festival. The process of getting to the point where you put on a successful show at the Edinburgh Festival normally takes between three and six years, sometimes much longer. Skinner was blissfully unaware of this. “I was going to do the hour show having never worked as a professional comic in my life. Not because I was brave, but because I didn’t know any better.” Not knowing the way it was supposed to be done, Skinner muddled through and became a phenomenal success doing it his own way.

By talking about how their naivety had paid off for them, both Trevor Robinson and Frank Skinner reminded me that sometimes it’s good to come at situations from a position of ignorance – whether real or consciously taken on – rather than one of knowing everything (or thinking you do). With less knowledge comes less assumptions, preconceptions, barriers and, often, fear. And less of those means fresher, braver work.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

One Response to Be naïve

  1. Daniel Zammit says:

    Your blog reminded me of the Zen Buddhist intention to practise with a ‘beginners mind’

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