How to create better ads? Do more of them.

Prince released several hundred songs in his lifetime. Picasso produced many thousands of artworks. Their overwhelming desire to create was matched with a deep understanding that practising their art would make them better. AML Creative Director Richard Germain discusses how exercising their creativity has helped the teams at AML to create stronger ideas, faster.

There are a lot of stairs at AML towers; 82 at the last count (I’m sure they increase by one a week). The tall and narrow nature of 101 St John Street means we have to be smart about how we collaborate with each other. Our building may not be open plan, but our mindset is.

One of the most popular initiatives is our monthly creative showcase, an opportunity for the creatives to present some of the simple ideas for complicated businesses (SIFCBs) they’ve been working on. This month, they’ve shown two top campaigns – a brand identity, advertising and a very cool video for a new online financial advice service, and an integrated DM and digital campaign for an international asset manager that involves a time capsule… from the future.

As part of the creative showcase, the creatives also show spec work – speculative ideas that they’ve worked on in their spare time. They can be for any product, service, charity or brand. The only rule is that the work has a simple idea at its heart. It’s fun. But it also serves a vital purpose. I am a fervent believer that creativity is just like a muscle. It needs exercising. Don’t, and like a muscle (don’t I know it) creativity can waste away. It’s estimated that one of my heroes, Picasso, created 50,000 artworks in his lifetime. (Let’s just think about that for a moment: that’s 1.5 pieces of art every day for 91 years.) Similarly the musician Prince, who died last week, released several hundred songs and 39 studio albums, as well as writing hits for many other artists. Their prolificacy makes others in their fields look like hobbyists. It’s also why they were so damn good.

Another way that creativity is like a muscle is that the more you use it the stronger and faster it gets. Steve Jobs said, ’Creativity is just connecting things.’ In advertising and its associated disciplines that means connecting brands with emotions, products with needs, words with pictures. So it goes without saying that the faster you can make these connections – and the stronger they are – the more successful your work will be. Gary Player, golfing legend, famously said, “The more I practise, the luckier I become.” What he could have said was, ‘…the luckier I get in tournaments.’ Advertising isn’t a pastime, it’s business. So the more we can practise being creative, the luckier we’ll be in pressurised environments like the white-hot cauldron of a global pitch.

So what did the ripped creative muscles of AML’s writers, art directors and designers generate this month for our creative showcase? In no particular order of excellence (or litigiousness), their ideas included a poster by copywriter, Matt Evans, suggesting that lodging in a shared house could turn out to be a hairy experience; Head of Art, Chris Walker’s brilliant ambient media idea for Pledge polish that literally protects wood, plus an ad warning of the shockingly addictive qualities of sugar (clue: it’s worse than cocaine). But our favourite is this poster for the Economist, setting forth what we imagine their view on Donald Trump might be. It was written by art director, Stephen O’Neill aka @typechap. We think David Abbott, legendary copywriter and creator of the original Economist campaign, would approve.