Creative tension

I saw a headline on a blog post over on BrandDNA : What do you do? And while his tale of a successful client meeting with three 'suits' didn't spell it out - I am pretty sure the headline refers to a story about Steve Jobs, head of Apple computer (back in the days when it was Apple Computer and he was its head - the forst time).

I thought the story was told in the wonderful book Chiat Day - the first 20 years. But I have scanned its pages and can't find it. Maybe it's apocryphal. I'll tell it to you from memory…

Young Steve Jobs is being given a tour of his new ad agency's offices in California. He is introduced to the staff and shows an interest in their roles and what they will be doing for his account.

He meets a number of the creative staff and says to each: "So,…what do you do?". Copywriters explain their work; collaborating with art directors to come up with ideas for campaigns and executions for ads, then crafting the copy.

Likewise with art directors and production people. When he gets to the account management guys he asks the first, who is feeling pretty cocky from their recent win of the account,
"So, what do you do?…"
"Well, I look after the account, attend meetings, write call reports…that sort of thing."
"But what do you do?.
The suit reiterates what he has already said, speaking more slowly just in case Jobs has comprehension issues. But Steve Jobs has anything but comprehension issues.

"I see,…Overhead."

It's nice to hear there is still tension between the suits and creatives. There needs to be some frisson in a business. Sharks tolerate remora because they need them but they are at opposite ends of the food chain.

I used to to work for an agency who had the following attitude to suits:

If you don't sell it - don't come back.

While I was searching the web for some corroboration on the Steve Jobs story I came across a fascinating site called Here's how its authors describe it: is a web site devoted to collective historical storytelling. It captures and presents sets of related stories that describe interesting events from multiple perspectives, allowing groups of people to recount their shared history in the form of interlinked anecdotes.

The site is structured as a series of projects containing related, interlinked stories. The stories are indexed by their characters and the topics they cover, and may be sorted by various criteria. Readers can rate the stories, and add comments, or other stories.

This is a very cool idea. I guess it is a Wiki of sorts.

Imagine if every organisation instituted a corporate storytelling function - there could be some sense of continuity over time as people come and go. I imagine it would be prone to Bismarkian re-writing of history in the more cynical kind of organisation. But in great, open brands it could be very interesting indeed.

Note to self: think more about this.


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