Victor Hugo described Imagination as intelligence with an erection.
Albert Einstein also once said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He was struck with the thought of riding a shaft of light in outer space while looking at himself in the mirror. Using this conjured up imagery he forged it through his imagination into the principles of his theory of relativity. History tells us that most of his peers thought him a nutter until his theory proved him right. Then all (conveniently) forgot his idiosyncrasies and applauded the result of his 'imaginings' instead.
I've believe that really great advertising is still very much rooted in the creative algorithms of the most fertile imaginations. Driven by Imagineers who allow art and science to percolate in effervescent, unpredictable harmony, yielding only to the magical 'aha' moments when brilliant ideas present themselves, often unannounced.
When they do, these ideas are also best served when (very) far removed from the 'cop-out' smothering of research focus groups or the logic-heavy musings of risk averse boardrooms where there is little room for creative bloom. Johnnie Walker's iconic 'Keep Walking' campaign and decades worth of memorable Levi's® campaigns, to name but a few, stand as irrefutable proof of the power of boldly imagined ideas.
Sadly, although fantasy, imagination and make believe flourish in childhood they rapidly fade as we are moulded to fit the adult's grey consensus of reality. Seth Godin tells the story of a child out on a walk with its mother who suddenly points and cries out: "Look a purple cow!" The mother perhaps tired and domestically harassed snaps: "don't be silly," And then delivers the brutal crunch line: "There is no such thing as purple cows!" So the child is brought up to see the world in the prosaic, subdued terms of grown ups and eventually forgets that it ever saw a purple cow.
The moral of the story is simply that now purple cows walk unseen by anyone.
As agencies we should never stop encouraging the creative catalysts needed to deliver great advertising. We should insist on giving our Imagineers the freedom of a tight brief within which their vivid imagination and fluid creative skills are allowed to deliver the true emotional heartbeat of a brand. Afterall, that's what clients engage us to do in the first place.
The simple reality of our time is that we do not 'consume' advertising anymore; we only 'consume' what interests, entertains or informs us. Therefore agencies and clients alike need to have the courage to lead with- and defend big, bold ideas that in their execution serve to inspire completely and delight absolutely. And as these ideas translate into strong integrated campaigns, they will ultimately drive brand engagement and resultant growth.
Time to believe in purple cows again.