Director’s Blog – Are you an innie or an outie?

June 4

Do you think inside or outside the box? Do you open the cardboard flaps for a little of both or do you contain yourself inside the box with some heavy-duty gaffer tape?


Weirdly, It’s one of the most popular questions I’m asked by people who don’t work in creative industries. 


Outside or inside the box thinking? Here is my take on the dilemma. 


I started life as a creative director and TV advert producer in 2006 at a small local TV station in Manchester. I’d spent most of my previous working life in and around TV sets, in-camera departments and filling in various crew roles along the way. My new role as a creative was a step in the right direction, but to be honest I had so much to learn and very little time. 


The channel had a sales force in place and ready to go by the time I stepped into the door and therefore I was expected to hit the ground running, taking briefs from clients and ultimately making TV adverts for brands that would appear on the channel. 


After only a few months in the job, I was regularly client-facing and It was in one of these meetings where I specifically remember a client who said to me…


“I want you to think outside the box.”


It wasn’t the first time I’d heard this expression, it’s a creative cliche after all, but it did somewhat take me back. After all, my job was to make response adverts primarily and most of our clients were small local businesses who were trying TV for the very first time. They wanted and needed results, so I was somewhat surprised by this request. Surely outside the box thinking would add too much risk for such a small brand? Or would inside the box thinking not to give them that stand out they required?  This was the first time in my career that I felt the need to define my creative thinking. Of course, I offered both approaches in my pitch and of course, they preferred to steer clear of my crazy out of the box ideas and stick with a less risky approach.


I feel I have created and produced enough work to give my simple explanation of both types of box thinking…


‘Outside the box’ is a world of ideas that allow you to move in any direction and go places you’ve never gone before. ‘Inside the box’ draws on past experience, strategy, proven techniques and structure.


It’s not often that marketing directors or business owners ask me the question these days. But it has happened. Only last year I wrote a pitch with 3 creative executions for a TV ad. I pitched to the client and although they said they thought that all the ads would work on TV, what they wanted for their brand was…


“Something a little more out there.”


I’ve been writing ads for nearly 15 years and I can honestly say that I never think about boxes. I never make the decision on whether I feel my ideas are inside or outside the box. I simply write ads, on brief and measure them against my own creative strategy. 


Sometimes my ideas are bold, different and cut through. Other-times they are safe, structured and considered. They are what they are. Innie or Outie? Who cares, it’s the results that matter. That’s why at ABF our creative is about results for our clients rather than the box they came from.