I watched a documentary about Fleetwood Mac the other night. I won’t claim to be a big fan but like a lot of groups that have been around for a long time I seemed to recognise most of their songs. But even someone with just a passing interest in music would have though as one of their albums, Rumours, has sold over 40 million copies making it currently the 10th best selling album of all time. No mean feat, and although I’m no music critic, I thought the songs on it have aged well, sounding as fresh today as they did in 1977 when they were recorded.

But the sales only tell a part of the story. I sat open mouthed in astonishment as the programme explained the personal circumstances enveloping the band as they were writing and recording the album. The band had five members. These five people contained two couples; both of them had been together for a long time. During the course of writing and recording both the couples broke up, acrimoniously. In fact for a part of it they were literally not speaking to each other. Add to this the less than revelatory news that drug use was rife and you can see the scene being set for an utter disaster. This album should have been a car-crash, not one of the seminal records of its decade. It probably marked the low point in their lives personally, yet it was the high point creatively.

That makes no sense; and yet it does.

Look at Florence, truly one of the most stunning cities in the world, an architectural wonder. It has produced some of the most astonishingly creative people who have ever lived. Individuals, who have genuinely changed the course of history, people like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Machiavelli to name but a few. Yet if you look at the history of Florence you don’t find stability and freedom you find almost constant upheaval, revolution and counter-revolution, invasion and tyranny. History is full of examples of creativity emerging from the most unlikely of surroundings.
This should give us inspiration just now. Times are tough so people are open to trying new things if the old ones aren’t working anymore. The pressure on clients and their budgets has forced everyone in our industry to look at what they are doing. We have to produce better work, on smaller budgets that deliver higher returns. We are remembering that technology can be our friend, not something to be ignored or even feared. We have been forced to confront the fact that customers are consuming media in different ways and that some of those ways don’t initially seem advertiser friendly. Everyday I see examples of innovation, from iPhone apps to newspapers on Twitter to You-Tube channels. Even in the doom and gloom that’s surrounding the industry it’s an exciting time. Everything is changing and we have the opportunity to help shape that change. This time last year we had no clients using social media, now over a quarter of them are. Websites are being redesigned but with a strategy in place this time, the internet is now an assumed media option rather than some specialist trick.
It’s made me wonder whether we should try and recreate Florence in our creative department. Instead of making things easier maybe we should make them harder, more challenging! Sneak in on a Sunday night and disable CS4 and leave them only Pagemaker, move their offices without telling them and hide the magic markers€¦..
A Florentine revolution in the agency could be fun, stability after all is Switzerland, and what’s it given the world; banking that’s what, and look where that’s got us.
Perhaps we sometimes lose sight of the fact that it takes a bit of grit to make a pearl.