Creative vs. Clever

Being a former Creative Director, I’m concerned with the bad reputation attained by the word “creative” nowadays.

I look at the work of CP&B for Burger King and have a certain respect for the cleverness of the ads and the entertaining quality. I see the Geicko ads and they do a good job of spoofing all kinds of genres. It is terribly clever stuff.

But is it all that creative?

I think what we often confuse for being creative is actually simply clever… and there is a difference.

Creative vs. Clever

My question is this: If these ads are so creative, what are they creating?

This is similar to my point on Ideas vs. Opinions. Cleverness, like opinions, is really just commentary. Sure, it’s entertaining. Kinda like the class clown in high school. But what is the point other than just getting attention? There is nothing embodied here. It is just a reflection, typically a reflection of the audience which the agency’s client want to capture. And like a high school prank, it really doesn’t evolve or grow. Instead, it seems to die slowly on the vine as it fades from memory.

The defining nature between creativity and cleverness is what is at the center: Purpose or Attention.

Dustin Staiger is a business consultant and speaker in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, communications, creativity and branding for global corporations as well as non-profits and start-ups.

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