There’s a story I love about an ex student of mine.
He was very talented, very creative, and turned into a good copywriter.
He did some nice ads, and got a job at a really good agency.
The CEO of this agency was very rich and famous.
He noticed that Charlie Saatchi was into modern art.
This piqued his interest.
And he decided to get into modern art too.
So he visited all the galleries and saw lots of modern art.
Eventually he found a large brightly, coloured piece he liked.
It was an acrylic painting, made up of lots of small, brightly coloured squares.
He had it hung, in pride of place, in his office.
It was very impressive.
My ex student was thinking about this, one night after work in the pub.
When everyone else had gone home he went back into the agency.
He went to the press production office.
He took a Pantone book and a pair of scissors.
A Pantone book is made up of little swatches of every colour there is.
He took this book to the CEO’s office.
He held it up to the painting against the coloured squares.
Then he cut out some exactly matched squares from the Pantone book.
And he laid them on the carpet at the bottom of the picture.
Then he went home.
The next morning the CEO went into his office.
He stood admiring his new piece of modern art.
He called his PA in and pointed out to her the finer points of its artistic merit.
Then she asked, “What are those little coloured squares on the floor?”
He picked them up and examined them.
They were exactly the size and colour of the ones in his painting.
He said ominously to his PA, “Get the art dealer who sold me this painting on the phone.”
Calmly, he said to the dealer, “Look, I’ve got a bit of a problem with this painting you sold me.”
The art dealer asked what it was.
Controlling his anger, he said, “Some of the little squares have started falling off.”
The dealer said that wasn’t possible.
The CEO yelled, “Don’t tell me it’s not bloody possible, I’m sitting here holding the little coloured paper squares in my hand.”
The dealer said, “I’m sorry, but that can’t happen. That’s an acrylic painting. The squares can’t fall off, they’re painted on.”
The CEO went quiet.
Gradually the penny dropped.
He put the phone down.
This was embarrassing.
He’d been humiliated in front of his art dealer and his PA.
And subsequently, the CEO stopped collecting modern art.
And my ex student didn’t wait to get fired.
He quickly found himself another job.
Personally I thought what he did was very creative.
And what made it so creative was the simplicity.
He didn’t do, or say, anything.
He just left some little bits of coloured paper on the floor.
And let imagination do the rest.
I think we can learn a lot about the way the mind works from that.
And the human mind is our medium.
It wasn’t advertising, but it was very creative.