Kill Your Babies: A Helpful Reminder for When Creativity Puts up a Brick

By Doug Carter

This was me, much of last weekend:

“Is it good enough? Does it show us in the best light? Do we look like idiots? Where is it going and what is it going to do for our brand? What about the time we have into it already? What about our expenses? Ugh. It’s fine, we can fix it. No, it’s not fine. No, it’s not fixable.”

Ok, sorry—let me back up a bit to fully explain my fretting. 

A couple weeks ago, we had an idea for our next internal video promo for Ivor Andrew. On the surface, it sounded like a great idea that suited our team and our personalities. It was fun and unusual and had a lot of potential. “Sure,” I said. “Why not? Let’s do it.”

The actual idea for the follow-up to our LaCroix video is irrelevant, but on paper, this idea sounded like a home run. A couple of weeks ago, we set up an introductory in-studio shoot to open the video and coordinated an on-location shoot out of the studio the next morning. We collected our video and audio gear, and a gaggle of us headed out on an adventure.

Fast forward to late last week. We pulled apart the video rough cuts to attempt to assemble into something entertaining and funny. And most importantly, something that we could not only be proud to show off, but a piece that would give a view into our personality as a marketing agency.

Sadly, what we wound up with was a flat, dull, uninteresting video that left all of us feeling pretty bummed out. We were at a point where we had already spent a lot of real time and real money building something that we thought would be killer, but really didn’t live up to even our most mediocre expectations.

It turned out to be a wet slice of plain white bread, plain and simple. And worse yet, it was rather embarrassing.

As Ivor Andrew’s Creative Director, it’s part of my job to make sure that we are always doing everything in our power to do the best work for our clients while shining them in the brightest of lights. It goes without saying, but it’s also my job to make sure we do the same for our own brand, too. 

In this instance, the right call was to trust our instincts and to immediately kill our baby. And kill it with fire.

It might sound crass, but the reality is that you have to be self-aware enough to know when something that you’re working on just flat-out sucks.

Don’t be afraid of admitting a mistake or a complete lack of results. It happens. More often than you would think, actually. But even more often, creatives and clients fail to admit that something they want to do—this brilliant idea they had—might not be working. In advertising and in life, sometimes you have to tell the emperor that he’s buck freakin’ naked.

Trust me, the embarrassment of admitting failure is way easier than explaining why you made your client look like a clown fiesta.

I would rather start over from the beginning than push through a bad idea or a bad execution of a weak idea. This video we started to produce didn’t do anyone any favors, and when you’re talking about a brand (especially your own), you have to be extremely sensitive to the message you put out there for people to consume. 

Yeah, it bites. Hard. You spend hours, money and brain cells trying to create something that is smart and funny and all of those things that make people like you and what you create. But every once in a while it just doesn’t go anywhere positive, and you always have to be prepared for the worst.

And sometimes, you must kill your creative babies.